Author disclaimer: I am the proud owner of a seven-year-old rescued beagle. I am far from impartial.
Names can be deceiving. Just today I received a call from a local concerned citizen who was upset at a political position the Humane Society of the United States had taken. I explained to the gentleman that Nevada Humane Society is not affiliated with HSUS; their positions are not ours, nor ours theirs. NHS is not a chapter of a larger nationwide organization, nor a branch or franchise of any other organization – not for better or worse, these are just the facts. We are a wholly independent, 501(c)3 charity incorporated in Nevada, nowhere else. This becomes important in a bit.
Nevada Humane Society is not a political entity. We don’t make political donations, we don’t choose sides, we are not an advocacy organization. What we are is the state’s leading animal welfare organization and one of the most heralded animal welfare charities in that nation. We concern ourselves with saving lives and protecting pets. To that end, we sometimes urge our assembly members and senators to support or oppose or even introduce legislation to protect pets and save lives. It’s a very small part of what we do, but every two years when our elected leaders converge on Carson City, it is an important part of what we do. In addition to impacting the business of saving lives (no one is paid to conduct this advocacy, it is a volunteer endeavor,) our laws are a reflection of ourselves and our values.
As I am sure you are aware, as the happenings are often highlighted in this fine paper, it has been a busy session for our hard-working and very busy legislators. They have a lot on their plate and they have serious issues facing them. A few, a very few, of these bills affect companion animals. Nevada Humane Society speaks up on those we deem impactful, in the positive or the negative, to our mission.
One such bill that we believe is very important, and I confess hits very close to home, is Senate Bill 261. This bill, if passed, would require laboratories in Nevada to make the animals upon which they conduct medical and scientific tests available for adoption after their service to society is completed. The bill would also limit the testing period to two years unless otherwise required by the nature of the research. Pretty harmless, huh?
I imagine many of you were unaware that labs test upon dogs, much less that it occurs here in Nevada, and here in Washoe County. They do and it does, but that’s not the focus of this bill. Currently, large animal testing is required for the approval of many drugs and treatments. This is the reality. As the son of a stroke survivor, the grandson of a cancer survivor, and someone living with a degenerative eye disease – I know firsthand that when our loved ones become ill, we want treatment to be readily available. Brilliant and dedicated professionals in the medical field toil to develop these treatments and to ensure they make it to the marketplace. Testing on animals is often required to make all of the above possible. This is reality. SB 261 is not about that.
Beagles are by far the most common dogs used for medical research. Why? Because of their loving, docile, friendly demeanor. This is just the reality. Again, SB 261 doesn’t attack, mitigate, abate, judge or restrict medical testing on dogs or any other animal. SB 261 would create a limit on the number of years an animal could be continuously tested upon (with an exception for studies that require more longitudinal results) and would grant these canine heroes a second chance… a life after their service. It seems to me that these dogs deserve hazard pay – or at least a family and a home to call their own after their service to society is complete. A small thank you, a deserved respite, the right thing to do.
You’ve heard me say that Washoe County and Carson City are two of the most humane communities in the nation and it’s true. Yet, can we continue to turn a blind eye to this reality? Can we pretend these dogs don’t count? Some may say this restricts business, some may say legislation is not required – the retort is simple: it doesn’t, and it is. Right is right and fair is fair.
This community is remarkable, this state is special. Our laws should reflect our values. Our thanks to the canaries in the coal mines of medical progress deserve our thanks and a home. Pass Senate Bill 261.
This article reflects the language in SB 261 at the time the article was written.
Kevin Ryan is the CEO of the Nevada Humane Society.