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More lab animals could be put up for adoption after Maryland General Assembly OKs 'Beagle Freedom Bill'

Researchers who use dogs or cats in research will have to “take reasonable steps” to offer the animals for adoption under legislation the Maryland General Assembly passed Friday.

It has been dubbed the Beagle Freedom Bill because that breed is the most common dog used in scientific experiments.

The law applies to any research facility in Maryland that uses dogs or cats in its studies, and to any canine or feline test subject that a veterinarian deems suitable for adoption.

The institutions would have to establish private placement processes for any animals it no longer needs, or to establish relationships with animal rescue organizations that could facilitate adoptions.

Similar bills have failed to pass in recent years, facing opposition from institutions including Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. But Hopkins supported the measure this year after it was revised to eliminate a requirement that it report on animal adoptions to the state and allow researchers to continue adoption arrangements they have already established, rather than force them to partner with rescue organizations.

Last year, 49 dogs were used in research at Hopkins, more than the 31 in 2016 but far fewer than the 493 canine test subjects in 2005.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that all new drugs be tested on animals before being used in human clinical trials, but rabbits and mice are now more commonly used than dogs or cats.

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