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Adoption of Laboratory Animals after Research

NIH supports a research institution’s decision to adopt out their research animals (also called “rehoming”) following the completion of the NIH-supported research. This decision is up to the research institution, should they deem the animals appropriate for rehoming. Also, as mentioned on this FAQ, NIH reminds institutions that their policies must clarify the disposition of animals acquired for research once the research has ended, which may include adoption.

While NIH funds are not allowed to pay for these post-research efforts, NIH developed a webinar Link to Non-U.S. Government Site - Click for Disclaimer to help and encourage research facilities create adoption programs. Viewers can learn about:

  • Establishing adoption, retirement, and release programs depending on the animal species
  • Developing institutional policies and criteria for suitable animals
  • Logistical considerations
  • Potential issues to overcome depending on state and local requirements 

Research institutions have the flexibility to determine if they can create an adoption program that meets the needs of the animals in their care. Successful post-research adoption programs:

  • Determine if rehoming is safe and medically appropriate, considering any effects on the animals and their well-being, human safety, and potential environmental impacts
  • Address unique challenges, such as if extensive conditioning and socialization are needed, to successfully integrate into a home setting which may include other animals and/or children. 
  • Meet pertinent federal, state, and local laws and regulations for the transfer of animal ownership
  • Coordinate with local animal shelters when appropriate

When laboratory animals are involved in research occurring at NIH, then federal property restrictions must also be considered. 

These programs require time, monetary resources, staffing, and expertise. Careful consideration must be given to individual circumstances. Adoption programs should be initiated only when they contribute to the safety and well-being of the animals and the adopters. When it is a safe, feasible, and appropriate option, re-homing is a rewarding process for both researchers and animals.