Potential bill to protect research cats, dogs

New legislation for research schools likely won’t affect campus



Nina Woodford, Director of the Office of the Campus Veterinarian, discusses the use of animals for research Friday in Lighty.

KAYE GILL, Evergreen reporter

The Washington State Legislature brought up a bill Feb. 5 in a Senate hearing that would require facilities that conduct research on dogs and cats, such as WSU and University of Washington, to offer its animals to rescue organizations for adoption.

Chris Mulick, the director of state relations, said, “[State Senator Guy Palumbo] brought this bill to ensure entities such as [WSU], who may use cats and dogs for research purposes, will ultimately find a home for them when suitable.”

Mulick said that Palumbo’s interests are aligned with WSU’s and other research institutions and that Palumbo doesn’t want to do anything that impairs the research done on these animals.

WSU has used cats and dogs off and on for research over the years and WSU has very few university-owned cats and dogs, Mulick said.

Nina Woodford, the director of the Office of the Campus Veterinarian, said that when cats and dogs are used for research, it’s usually for clinical trials in which privately owned animals would come into the vet and receive treatment for an issue.

“When a researcher wants to use an animal,” Woodford said, “they write a proposal that goes to the committee.”

Woodford said there is an Institutional Animal Care and Use committee made up of faculty members, community volunteers and veterinarians that reviews and approves an agreement to make a plan for the entire time they are using the animal for research including what happens to the animals at the end of the study. 

“If they then want to change something, they would have to add an amendment,” Woodford said. “There is a process there.”

She said this process largely depends on the type of animal, what research the animal was used for and safety concerns. The animal would either be euthanized, transferred to private ownership or sold (usually only for livestock), or it would be released back to the wild if it was a wild animal.

“Right now, we have no animals in use at WSU that this [bill] would apply to,” Woodford said. “We don’t have any dogs or cats that are owned by WSU.”

Woodford said most of the animals owned by the university are fish, mice and rats that have short lifespans. She said that these animals also can be genetically modified thus unsuitable for adoption.

Woodford said there could be some benefits to the university owning cats and dogs, although rare. She said that there might be some projects where euthanasia might be necessary if vital tissues such as heart or brain tissue needed to be collected.

She said people would not volunteer their animals if research like this was necessary. People only volunteer their animals for a cure.

“This bill would not have a large impact [on WSU],” Woodford said. “We already have a process for the transfer to private ownership here.”

This story has been updated to clarify statements made by Nina Woodford, director of the Office of the Campus Veterinarian, about the Institutional Animal Care and Use committee.