COLUMBIA (AP) — The University of Missouri plans to work with a new organization to encourage more people to adopt research animals, a move that comes as the university is being sued by another organization seeking records on dogs and cats it uses in research.
The university announced Thursday it will work with Homes for Animal Heroes, a program developed by the National Animal Interest Alliance, which supports responsible animal research, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
At the same time, the university is being sued by Animal Rescue Media Education over a request for documents relating to 179 dogs and cats used in research. The university system demanded more than $82,000 to locate and copy the records for the organization's Beagle Freedom Project.
Patti Strand, president of the National Animal Interest Alliance, called the Beagle Freedom Project a radical animal rights group that is trying to end animal research.
"Our national group is aware in general of the Beagle Freedom Project and basically we just felt like there needed to be an organization that was supportive of humane, properly conducted research and to adopt these animals," she said.
In response, Kevin Chase, vice president of Animal Rescue, said the National Animal Alliance worked to protect animal research, noting its board includes an attorney for the company that operated Ringling Bros. Circus and others involved in laboratory research on animals.
"We are suspicious because this is an entity that speaks out on behalf of businesses and others who use animals for profit," he said.
The partnership announced Thursday is not intended to appease the Beagle Project, university spokesman Christian Basi said.
"We have always had a robust adoption program in place and we have actually been in discussions with this organization for a very long time and we are very pleased that we are able to make this connection and expand our adoption program," Basi said.
The university said in a news release that since 2007 it had found homes for 394 dogs and 294 cats no longer needed for research. In September, the university said it had had euthanized 242 dogs and cats and found adoptive homes for 155 since the beginning of 2014. Basi could not provide the number of animals euthanized since 2007.
The Beagle Project's lawsuit is in settlement negotiations in Boone County Circuit Court, said attorney Dan Kolde, who represents the Beagle Project.