Posted: June 20, 2008, 5 a.m. EDT
When California State University, Northridge, shut down professor Donna Hardy’s comparative psychology lab, she was faced with a huge dilemma. For 39 years, she and her students observed behaviors in small animals such as guinea pigs, mice, rats and hamsters, but with the close of the lab the small animals were left without a home.
Photo Courtesy of Jadee Klinger
Fifty-six lab rats from the University of Arcadia found homes through the help of The Humane League of Philadelphia.
Photo Courtesy of Debbie Rothstein
The newly formed lab animal rescue organization, New Life Animal Sanctuary, took in more than 250 animals, including these two guinea pigs, from the California State University, Northridge.
“What were we going to do with them?” Hardy said. Because the animals belonged to the state of California, Hardy said she couldn’t give them to people.
Not wanting to harm the small animals, she, with the help of a student, got in touch with the New Life Animal Sanctuary, a recently formed organization in California dedicated to providing a safe place for lab animals. Gina Lynn and Allison Lance, co-founders of the organization, are currently working to find homes for Hardy’s 250 lab animals.
“We originally thought, ‘Oh that’s crazy. Labs aren’t going to turn animals over to us,’” Lynn said about starting the organization. “But since we started putting feelers out, we’ve come across quite a few people that have some connections, and everybody is certain that it’s not going to be a problem. And we’re finding already that it isn’t.”
Current Status of The Animals
So far, New Life Animal Sanctuary, with the help of other rescue organizations around the state, has found homes in Southern California for about 100 of the small animals. However, they still have a lot of work before them because the original count of 250 animals has grown to more than 300 since the birth of two litters of mice.
Debra Mendelsohn of the Animal Care and Adoption Network in the Bay Area volunteered to coordinate the fostering and adoption of about 50 animals heading to the northern part of the state in late June.
“I’ve got a pretty good base of networking people and also shelters,” Mendelsohn said. She will run the operation out of the Marin Humane Society where she volunteers once a week. “I will have my adopters meet there if they can, and the ones that can’t, I’ll foster short-term until I can get them to their permanent homes.”
People interested in adopting one of the lab animals can fill out an adoption application found on the New Life Animal Sanctuary website. Lynn and her team screen all prospective parents to ensure they will be a good fit for the small animals. They call veterinarian references, which candidates must include on the application, and try to make home visits to evaluate the environment that the small animal will live in.
During the process Lynn said she also warns the potential adopters that she cannot guarantee the health status and longevity of the animal’s life, because they come to her with no background information.
“We don’t know what happened to these animals,” she said. “We don’t know what kind of stress they’ve been under and how that might be affecting them.”
Meeting Rules And Regulations
However, according to Hardy, the conditions that she kept her small animals in were highly regulated, with special attention being paid to their food consumption, bedding and environment temperature.
“All university animals or animals in any facility that get federal funding are highly regulated by the federal government,” she said.
CSUN’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee meets twice a year and a university veterinarian visits the small animals regularly to make sure they are properly taken care of, Hardy said. She also had to fill out research protocol forms and notify the state of the type of research she was performing on the small animals.