Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Teddy's Law, named for a Charles River research beagle, aims to help lab dogs and cats find homes

A white and blue sign advertises the entrance to the Charles River facility in Mattawan. It sits on the facilities deep green front lawn. Two trees sit behind it, atop the slight incline that separates the lawn from the facilities tall black gates topped with barbed wire. The bone white facility looms beyond the brief spattering of vehicles in the parking lot.
Michael Symonds
In 2019, Charles River halted a pesticide test on the beagles after the Humane Society of the United States exposed it. According to the Humane Society, these tests involved force-feeding the dogs pesticides.

Research facilities in Michigan that run tests on cats and dogs will have to offer the animals for adoption when the tests are done.

Last week Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Teddy’s Law.

It’s named for a beagle who was part of a fungicide test at Charles River Laboratories near Kalamazoo.

The company stopped the test after the Humane Society of the United States published an undercover reportabout it and other testing at the Charles River facility in Mattawan.

Teddy the beagle was later adopted.

Stephen Rapundalo is the CEO of Michigan Biosciences Industry Association.

He said he hopes the new law will increase adoptions, but he suggested that some cats and dogs — such as those that have been "chronically instrumented," or implanted with various devices as part of testing — will be in poor shape after being experimented on.

He added that some shelters are already overcrowded.

“I think the last thing that our facilities and institutions want to see happen is an animal will be transferred to a shelter, then only to be euthanized, or disposed of because they could not, in turn, find a good home for that animal,”  Rapundalo said.

The drained white concrete facade of the Zoetis building in downtown Kalamazoo is broken for a moment by the bright orange of the Zoetis logo that sits atop the entrance to the building. Dark windows line the building, with a grey sidewalk lying parallel to the building going on in the image until it vanishes in the distance.
Michael Symonds
Both Zoetis and Charles River have said they already have adoption programs in place, a spokeswoman for Zoetis said their program is open to employees.

Blake Goodman is the Humane Society’s Michigan director. He countered this point, saying in the past when the group has looked for homes for former lab animals, it’s heard from “thousands” of people.

“They want to provide those animals the lives that they always should have been living, the backyards that they should have been running around in, the couches they should have been sleeping on," Goodman said.

Goodman added that shelters around the country work together to find space for animals and to move them to shelters that have room, as needed.

State Senator Aric Nesbitt of Lawton originally voted for both Senate bills that make up Teddy's Law when they were first introduced to the Senate in June.

However, Nesbitt voted against the bills when they came back to the Senate after a vote in the House.

Senator Nesbitt declined to be interviewed, but sent the following statement through his press secretary, Jeffrey Wiggins.

"After a careful review of the legislation, the Senate was able to make some clarifying changes to the bill that produced strong, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, these changes were either edited or simply removed in the House at the last minute of this year's session."

Asked for clarification, Wiggins said that the language of the House-approved version "expanded" the legislation "broadly beyond the scope of the act which is titled the “Use of Dogs and Cats for Research Act.”

The final version of SB 149 refers to "laboratory animals" rather than dogs and cats. However, it also defines laboratory animals as "a dog or cat."

Wiggins also wrote that the final version of the bill "watered down the reporting requirement." An earlier version of the legislation would have required facilities to report total numbers of dogs and cats in their labs to the state. The final version simply requires companies to provide an "attestation" that they are following the law.

District 36 State Representative Steve Carra also voted against Teddy's Law.

On his website, Carra said the law would lead to more animal deaths.

In a statement, Charles River spokeswoman Amy Cianciaruso said the company already has an adoption program.

But she added that the company supports Teddy’s Law.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.