The Beagle Freedom bill makes progress

By @amandaketchledge

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Dogs used in research labs most of their lives would be able to get a second chance with Senate Bill 261, known as the Beagle Freedom Bill.

“We wanted to put forth that bill for discussion and debate in making sure that those dogs have an opportunity to live after they’ve sacrificed their bodies for science,” said Senator Mark Manendo, the bill sponsor.

The bill would allow dogs to be put up for adoption after they are tested on in research labs. Many are supporting Senate Bill 261, but there a few opponents, like Assemblyman Chris Edwards and Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who voted against the bill. Senator Manendo says the opposition really comes down to one word.

“One of the Senate members changed the word from shall to may. That’s been something we’ve been fighting for to put in the bill and something to put back in the bill,” said Manendo.

Senator Mark Manendo in his office talking about Senate Bill 261.

On May 7, 2015, as assembly committee passed the bill with the word “shall” in the legislation, making research facilities in the state to offer a dog or cat up for adoption if the animal is healthy enough. The bill gained support by Charles River Laboratories, the only facility in Nevada to test on dogs. Senator Manendo says that they are negotiating with them to set up an adoption program for their facility, just as the bill text would require.

“They would have to, they shall make sure that they adopt those dogs out to people or organizations outside of their own structure and their own employees,” said Manendo.

Senator Manendo just so happens to own a beagle, the most common breed used in testing.

“I have a beagle named Carson,” said Manendo.  “He makes visits to Carson City.”

Manendo is a known animal lover and he wants this bill to pass so dogs can have another chance at life, before they are euthanized.

“Sadly there are some that just are in too bad of shape or that they put down. But there are ones that can go to forever loving homes,” said Manendo.

According to the USDA data on animals used for research in 2013, Nevada ranks in as 29 in all of the states to use dogs. 956 dogs that are known of were tested on. Wisconsin Ohio, and New Jersey are the top three states that test on dogs for research.

With a medical background and a beagle named Tracker, KC Hicks says she’s torn on this bill.

“I have some mix feelings on it. I’m a big fan of the beagles getting some respect in the medical community; they’re very well respected by the researchers. Their hearts are very unique and so they are very valuable, as far as medical research goes,” said Hicks.

KC Hicks plays with three of her dogs in her backyard in Reno.

While she appreciates what the researchers do, she says that it bothers her what could be happening to the beagles tested on. And if they were adopted out, she says it could be difficult for future pet owners.

“It’s hard because a lot of the time we want to get a dog that we can trust from the beginning and that might not have history that we don’t know about,” said Hicks. “However, beagles are amazing dogs to rescue.”

Hicks says that the beagles who have never been socialized do have a chance with several of the rescue groups in town, who could try to rehab them the best that they can. And in regard to this legislation, she says it can’t just be an emotional response from animal lovers.

“The most important thing is that it’s being acknowledged and that Nevada is getting into the discussion. I think that there are a lot of ethical aspects that need to be worked out and they’re not easy,” said Hicks.

Tracker, the Beagle.

The bill would waiver the liability from a research laboratory and offer them protection and confidentiality. It also does not force the labs to release sick, injured, or suffering animals. But any progress made for the future, is a success, according to Senator Manendo.

“The folks I’m working with are not quitting on these dogs,” said Manendo. “We’re going to fight to the end to try to get something into Nevada law. Even if it’s a first step, that’s something we can work with.”

The bill now heads to the full assembly for a vote and Senator Manendo is hopeful that it will pass.

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