Hardy said one of the biggest challenges she faced in turning over the small animals to New Life Animal Sanctuary was complying with the Animal Welfare Act, which the agriculture department uses to regulate the treatment of lab animals.
“Since the forms for the protocol had no provisions for placing [the animals] outside of the university, we didn’t know what to do,” she said. “[The compliance officer for the university] stepped in, she got a hold of the head veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture and got him to agree for us to give these animals to the sanctuary.”
Fortunately, other than putting in lots of time cleaning cages and preparing to care for the small animals – an average of 12 hours a day for more than a month – approval from the state was one of the only obstacles that stood in the way of New Life Animal Sanctuary receiving the animals. Through the help of volunteers and other rescue organizations, Lynn and Lance received donations for much of the supplies and money needed to run the operation.
This being the spearhead project to the newly formed organization, Lynn said they still have much to learn. But as attention to ethical treatment of animals is heightened, she foresees the re-homing of lab animals to become more prevalent.
“A lot of people have been very receptive to the idea of adopting lab animals and excited about the idea of giving lab animals a new chance at life,” she said.
Saving Animal Lives In Pennsylvania
Across the country, in Pennsylvania, a group of 56 lab rats from Arcadia University faced a similar plight.
The university contacted The Humane League of Philadelphia to help re-home lab rats that they otherwise would have had to euthanize. The league’s director, Nick Cooney, said they have been working with the university for three years, and had more rats this year to find homes for than they have in the past.
“It was slow getting started,” Cooney said, who tried to reach people through the organization’s newsletter, rescue listservs and MySpace. “When we first put the word out, we received a very small number of replies, but after word spread more, especially on rat e-mail listservs and MySpace, we started getting more and more replies.”
He was able to find homes for all the rats, with more potential adopters ready to take some in. Lynn even offered to house any rats unable to find homes at her sanctuary.
Growth In Learning And Education
For her, starting an organization to cater specifically toward lab animals has been her way of contributing to the animal rescue community. The idea of vivisection – the experimental operation on a living organism – is what fueled her cause.
“I have been involved in many protest activities over the years, and I wanted to find a gentler more educational approach,” she said. “I think the sanctuary came to my mind as the perfect opportunity to save animal lives and also educate people.”
To her knowledge, only one other organization focused specifically on lab animals exists – the Kindness Ranch in Wyoming. Once Lynn obtains nonprofit status, which she is currently working on filing for, and secures a facility, she hopes to open her services to include large animals and primates in addition to small animals.
“We are learning a lot,” she said. “This is our inaugural rescue and we have learned a lot about what we could do better in the future.”
Rachael Brugger is a former intern for SmallAnimalChannel.com. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Ohio.