Retirement Sanctuary for Laboratory Animals
An Alternative



Researchers Care

Bradford S. Goodwin, Jr., DVM, DACLAM

Professor and Executive Director of the Center for 

Laboratory Animal Medicine and Care

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

It is a distinct pleasure and privilege for me to endorse and support The Retirement Sanctuary for

Laboratory Animals, Inc., located in Gonzales County, Texas.  This organization has been established by caring, compassionate and well-trained individuals and is dedicated only to laboratory animals who have retired from their service to research institutions.  This effort is commendable, the need is great and the results are immeasurable for the enhancement is animals' well-being.

Biomedical research studies that have required laboratory animals concern the biological, medical, chemical and physical sciences.  Biomedical research means to investigate and gain information and knowledge about the puzzles and problems of health and disease that are presently unsolved.  Biomedical research seeks to find preventive measures, effective treatments and cures for human and animal diseases, injuries and other disorders.  Its ultimate goals are to preserve and restore health and to improve the human and animal condition.


Biomedical investigations may be basic(investigatory) or clinical (applied).  Both basic and clinical research use “models” in their studies and oftentimes the best model is a laboratory animal.  Before an animal model may be used in a research study, the proposed study is carefully scrutinized by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee that is mandated by the federal Animal Welfare Act and the Public Health Service policy.  This committee is composed of veterinarians, scientists, non-scientists and non-affiliated community members with the mission to validate the need for the use of laboratory animals in scientific investigations.  In general, the principles for conducting good research stipulate responsibilities of investigators, whose activities regarding the use of animals are subject to continual oversight by this committee.


Often, laboratory animal models are used in many scientific studies that are designed to lead to the prevention, treatment and cure of many significant human and animal disorders.  Examples include studies concerning heart disease; diabetes; restoration of vision; the basic processes of learning, memory and decision-making; and development of behavioral and drug therapies, to name a few.  Animals are only used when absolutely necessary for the validation of the study objectives.


Many of these laboratory animal models are used on long-term studies as described above and become available for retirement in a sanctuary at the end of these studies.  The Retirement Sanctuary for Laboratory Animals focuses on the needs of the animals who have served in these studies and special attention and care are provided for them.  This sanctuary offers a wide variety of enclosures and habitats so that animals accepted into the retirement community may become well adjusted to their new homes.  Conspecific interaction and environmental enrichment are tailored to meet the needs of all animals in this program.  This program is outstanding in every respect and is a much-needed resource for the appropriate retirement of long-term research animals who have served mankind so very well as research animal models.


Research institutions have the obligation and the unique opportunity to show the public that triumphs in research are measured not only by the care within the institutional walls, but also through the care that is extended for life once the animals have completed their work.  The Retirement Sanctuary for Laboratory Animals fills a desperate need for retired research animals and should be supported with enthusiasm and financial backing.  The individuals responsible for this program are dedicated professionals who are giving of themselves unselfishly for the benefit of our animal charges.  I wholeheartedly support and endorse this program.  The rewards will be beyond measure.



TBAALAS Article 

Retirement for Laboratory Animals…A Conscionable Act

RSLA’s mission is to offer research institutions an alternative to euthanizing their research animals.

The Retirement Sanctuary for Laboratory Animals Inc., was an idea and a dream born out of respect for research animals. How many years did I leave for a holiday knowing the ones that allowed me that holiday were left in cages? Twenty nine years studying behavior and cognitive processes in primates and pigeons at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, made the desire to do something for them in return, a passion. RSLA’s mission is to offer research institutions an alternative to euthanizing their research animals. Institutions release very few animals when their experimental protocols are fulfilled. After interviewing several legal administrators and  veterinarians in laboratory medicine, I learned one reason they do not retire animals to sanctuaries is because they fear the bad public relations that can come with retiring a “less-than-pristine” animal. Most institutions do not admit they do research on anything larger than a rat. It is not good public relations and they are intimidated by animal rights organizations.

RSLA was established to close this gap and offer biomedical institutions reassurance that negative and biased rhetoric is not necessary when it comes to retiring an animal. RSLA’s philosophy is not to change the world, but to offer animals, in this difficult situation, a way to spend their final years experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of life outside of institutional walls. Federal funds, used to finance biomedical and behavioral research, do not allow money to be set aside for retirement of primates used in science. The primates go to the institution that purchased them with no dowry and no requirement that when their work is complete they will be allowed to spend their remaining years in a sanctuary. Most are bred for the sole purpose of research and therefore cannot return to the wild. Financially, it is difficult for research institutions to help primates find a home when their work is complete. RSLA was founded and was built to assist in this area. RSLA never claims it rescues animals. These primates are not on a sinking ship and are not being abused. Research institutions contribute to science and take excellent care of their animals. Their guidelines and regulations are of the highest standards. During my years at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, I worked with the finest veterinarians, health and surgical technicians and husbandry personnel that anyone could hope to have as colleagues in the field of research. I have watched them spend hours with the animals in the way of play and enrichment. Very few witness or even know about the personal money these people spend and the non paid hours they work to make sure these animals are happy and healthy. I served on the animal welfare committee and was deeply humbled by the concern and the strict oversight that goes into running a caring institution that conducts research on animals.

And now the dream is a reality. It took many years of hard work to build but the retirees are happy and healthy and enjoying outdoor sights and sounds every day. Some of these sights and sounds are totally novel to the animals born inside a laboratory. Oh but how they enjoy a sky with clouds and birds, sunshine...oh and grasshoppers….YUM!

Jacquelyne Rivera-Clauder