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COLUMBIA - MU is partnering with the program "Homes for Animal Heroes" to try and increase the number of adopted research animals.

Homes for Animal Heroes is a program that connects research animals with foster homes. The goal of the program is to help animals transition from research subjects, to household pets. The National Animal Interest Alliance, an animal welfare group, sponsors the program.

MU spokesperson Christian Basi said the adoption process involves two steps.

"The first step is obviously identifying the animals, and then acclimating those animals so that they’re ready when they’re placed for permanent adoption," Basi said. "So they go to basically a foster home, we have people who are specially trained to help acclimate these animals to the foster environment. And then those animals are matched to a family."

MU's animal research program is monitored by a committee made up of staff members, researchers and community members. They decide if animals are necessary for a study, the maximum number of animals a study needs and whether animals are ready for adoption after research.

Basi said despite negative media portrayals, animal research is necessary to help find cures not only at the University, but across the entire country.

"We really do need their assistance in these studies because without that knowledge, first of all, we would not be able to treat animals at the veterinary clinic for a variety of diseases," Basi said. "We now have treatments for cancer in animals, we have treatments for diseases in animals that we didn’t have twenty or thirty years ago."

Right now, the University is currently being sued by an Animal Rescue Media Education project called the "Beagle Freedom Project" for demanding more than $80,000 to locate and copy records on specific animals.

Basi said the partnership with Homes for Animal Heroes is not the University's response to the lawsuit, or to the beagle euthanasia controversy of August 2016.