SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- A pack of beagles and their owners have been regular visitors to the state capitol in Sacramento to support AB147, a bill that would require publicly funded labs using dogs and cats for research to put healthy ones like Riley up for adoption rather than put them to sleep once the research is over.
Assembly member Matt Dababneh authored the legislation. "If the animal is healthy enough and can humanely live, I think we have a responsibility as a state to make sure that animal is given the opportunity to become someone's pet, to become part of someone's family," he said.
But the biomedical industry doesn't see it that way. At a recent committee hearing lobbyists told lawmakers the bill is not necessary because most lab dogs already get adopted. And it could even be harmful.
"We've become more and more aware of what the true intent of the sponsors of this bill really are, and that is to insinuate themselves into our research programs," said Jason Murphy, a lobbyist for the University of California.
The sponsor is the non-profit Beagle Freedom Project, a group industry spokesperson Dr. Robert Phalen says he doesn't trust. "The sponsors of the bill have ties with organizations that have been involved in terrorism against research," he said.
He points to a case involving Huntingdon Life Sciences. Eighteen years ago an undercover PETA investigation allegedly showed HLS staff shaking, punching and shouting at beagles in their care.
The technicians involved were prosecuted. But so were the activists that launched a campaign to shut Huntingdon down. One of those activist: Kevin Chase, vice president of the Beagle Freedom Project.
We suggested to Dr. Phalen that it seems unfair to accuse the entire organization of being extremist. His response: "Even today there are links to the anarchist movement."
"Not only is that incredibly false and insulting, but that is defamation," said Shannon Keith, the Beagle Freedom Project's president. She says the accusations are just an attempt to divert attention from the real issue. "This is the industry's dirty little secret. They don't want the public to know, especially dogs and cats whom we share our homes with, are being tested on," she said.
The industry claims only one percent of the more than 4,000 dogs and 2,000 cats used in research in California are euthanized, and 97 percent of the ones that survive already get adopted.
But there's no way of confirming those numbers, because the labs are not required to report them.
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