A Life after the laboratory: exploring the policy and practice of laboratory animal rehoming

There are increasing calls in human-animal studies for a recognition that animals are, and have always been, central mediators in cultural, political and historical understandings of the world, whether in the farm, zoo, home, or laboratory.

Human-animal relations are particularly complex in the ethically contested laboratory space, where staff are responsible for caring for, harming, and culling, animals on a routine basis. The placement of such animals into the human home once research has been completed is thus introduced as an ethical practice, allowing the extension and enrichment of animal life.

Drawing on a questionnaire, stakeholder interviews and ethnographic methods, this thesis explores the sociocultural and political importance of the growing attention toward rehoming, and the belief that certain species, namely cats and dogs, should be individualised, kept in the home, and permitted to develop deep and personal attachments to humans. In particular, I ask both why and how an animal can move from being considered a scientific tool, with solely utilitarian use, to assuming a status as a loved family member.

I find that rehoming opens up new spaces to care and to conceive animal welfare, helps us to understand the symbolically contested space occupied by animals as wild, laboratory animals, or pets, and allows us to probe the emergence of novel stakeholder relations between research facilities, rehoming organisations, wildlife sanctuaries, and pet owners.

The report is available to read here: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/450190/1/Tess_Skidmore_PhD_thesis_final_cop…