Vote to shield animal lab goes global

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Bernalillo County commissioners are garnering international attention after news spread about a pending vote to amend the county's animal ordinance to exempt a large research lab that uses animal as test subjects and provides about 1,000 jobs.

Commissioners have been weeding through dozens of e-mails since the scheduled vote hit media outlets. Some e-mails are asking commissioners to reach into their hearts.

There are several other e-mails that get to the point saying Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute should not be given an exemption.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson said most of the first group were from people who live in the area. However, as the weeks progressed he started seeing some from across the nation to include California, Washington and Connecticut.

Johnson said the news then spread even further.

"They're coming from all over the world," Johnson said. "For a while it was South Africa, and then it got all the way from Australia."

Johnson said he expected to hear from opposing groups but not to this extent.

Next week commissioners are expected to vote on an amendment to the county's animal ordinance. The change will allow an exemption for any labs, which are already federally regulated, to continue working without being forced to abide by county laws.

That would mean the lab could continue testing toxins on animals without being under the same rules as pet owners.

Commissioners said lab officials hinted to the board that without an exemption it would do business elsewhere. Johnson said more than 1,000 jobs would also leave the state.

"If they were to leave the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, they would take $1.7 billion over the next 10 years," Johnson said.

Johnson said its not money versus animal cruelty because the lab is already heavily regulated.

"There are a number of agencies including the USDA that regulate LRRI," Johnson said.

Johnson said he's reading every e-mail carefully and taking each point into consideration. But, the international e-mails aren't getting as much attention as those sent from locals.

"It's very hard to take those into consideration when determining or not to grant to exemption," Johnson said.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the amendment next week, but an overwhelming number of changes, from other groups, could delay it all together.

Johnson said the lab will fall under county jurisdiction by the end of the year now that the federal government is turning the property over to the lab . Opponents of the lab have said what the lab is doing is animal cruelty and the county should not allow it to continue.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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