Arizona animal testing bill stopped in its tracks

Covance-backed bill, which passed committee in early February, dropped a week later

Kimberely Sirk
PHOENIX—The Arizona legislature's attempt to change itsstatues to exclude federally regulated research facilities from animal cruelty lawscame to a standstill in early February as the senator who introduced the billdecided not to move the legislation.

The Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public DebtCommittee voted in a close 4-3 decision to move the bill, Senate Bill 1159, onto the Senate rules committee in a vote held Feb.1. The legislation was firstintroduced on Jan. 20 and had its second reading the next day.
 
 
The major change proposed by the measure would have been toexclude animal toxicology assessment and scientific experimentation fromArizona's "cruelty to animals" statute. The current statute considers animalcruelty by its own definition as either a class 1 misdemeanor or a class sixfelony. 
Current exemptions exist only for activities related to thetaking of wildlife, animal agriculture and any activities regulated by theArizona Game and Fish Department or the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
 
 
Supporters of the measure say that it would align state andfederal regulations in this area, and that nearly all of the remainder of thenation has scientific research exemptions from animal cruelty statutes on thebooks.
 
The bill's primary sponsor, Arizona Sen. Steven Pierce,R-District 1, says that it became apparent during the discussion in committeeon the bill that many individuals and groups were mobilizing in opposition tothe measure, voicing concerns about ceding Arizona's right to enforce its ownlaws and expressing concerns about treatment of animals.
 
"We heard from numerous groups, and it appeared that we werelooking at a long and drawn-out process," Pierce says. "The bill was pulled.The group that wanted me to introduce it changed its mind and doesn't want tofight right now."
 
 
The primary impetus behind the bill is said to be drugdevelopment services company Covance, which recently opened a state-of-the-art,288,000 square-foot, preclinical animal research facility in Chandler, Ariz.The facility received full accreditation in October 2009 by the Association forAssessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). Thatorganization is said to promote the humane treatment of animals in scienceworldwide through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs byrecognizing the highest standards for animal care and use in 31 countries.
 
 
According to the company Web site, Covance offers a range ofservices, including GLP toxicology and bioanalytical, toxicology and safetyassessment services, including standard and specialized services, to helppharmaceutical and biotechnology companies achieve study goals quickly and withgreater confidence. Covance has 15 offices in the U.S. and one in Canada.
 
Calls and e-mails seeking comment for this story were notreturned by company spokesperson Camilla Strongin, who had gone on record assaying that the bill would not have a large impact on her company.
 
Pierce, a rancher by trade who also holds a degree in animalscience, agrees that the legislation sought to resolve the question ofoversight of the way labs that use animals for research.
 
"It's important that this be done," Pierce says. "It'ssomething that needs to be done. The local health departments are not equippedto watch over these industries."
 
 
Covance, with headquarters in Princeton, N.J., is one of theworld's largest drug development services companies, with annual revenuesgreater than $1.7 billion, global operations in more than 25 countries and morethan 10,000 employees worldwide.
Calls and e-mails to the Animal Defense League of Arizona,which was also vocal about the proposed legislation, were not returned as ofpress time.


Kimberely Sirk

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