Starting in January, research facilities in Oregon will be required to place the dogs and cats they no longer need into shelters for adoption.

The idea was championed by fifth-grade students at Elmonica Elementary in Beaverton.

The class heard about the ‘Beagle Freedom Project’ in California and successfully got Oregon lawmakers to sign on. The project has gotten bills approved in 11 states that researchers put their dogs and cats up for adoption.

Founder Shannon Keith said despite being caged most of their lives, the animals make great pets. She called her first experience collecting dogs bittersweet.

“They were scared to come out of their cages because they had never seen anything. Their eyes were squinting from the sun. They’d never felt grass,” Keith said. “But give them 20 minutes and they started doing zoomies around the yard.”

In 2017, Oregon labs housed more than 8,000 animals, only 26 of which were dogs and 27 cats.

The vast majority of the rest were monkeys. There were also about 400 pigs, 300 guinea pigs, 200 sheep and many other species.

“Dogs and cats in Oregon research facilities deserve the chance to live as pets once their time in the laboratory ends,” said Kelly Peterson, senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

“Many who have adopted former research dogs and cats can attest to the resilience and affection of these animals once they are given the chance to flourish in a home environment,” Peterson said.

Senate Bill 638 will go into effect Jan. 1.

Original Article: Oregon Public Broadcasting