ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Bernalillo County commissioners are considering changing the county's animal ordinance to ensure a big research lab that uses animals as test subjects stays put to save hundreds of jobs.
Tucked away on Kirtland Air Force Base is the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute that many probably never knew existed. That lab could soon be the reason a county ordinance is changed.
"The ordinance that they are concerned about is our animal care ordinance," County Commissioner Wayne Johnson said.
Johnson said the lab uses animals as test subjects..
The lab's president, Robert W. Rubin, spells out what they do in a video on its website .
"We maintain breeding colonies of canine models and nonhuman primates, ferrets and other species," Rubin said.
A company spokesperson told KRQE News 13 because the feds are transferring the land over to the lab, it becomes county land. That means all county ordinances would apply including the animal ordinance put in place to make sure pets are properly cared for.
The lab that tests toxins on animals would have to abide by those rules too.
"We expose animals to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, coal-burning exhaust," Rubin said.
Some animal-rights groups have claimed in the past what the company is doing is abuse. However, the lab claims what they do at the facility is much needed research.
Johnson agreed saying the lab is heavily regulated already.
"They're regulated by nine different federal agencies and subject to the Animal Welfare Act," Johnson said.
Johnson said making the lab adhere to the county ordinance could hurt more than help. He said company execs have hinted to commissioners if they can't do their research in Albuquerque they will do it elsewhere.
For months, the commission has been considering amending the animal ordinance.
"It would basically say that if you're subject to the Animal Welfare Act and federally regulated under federal statutes, then you're exempt from our ordinance," Johnson said.
Johnson said the lab once housed animals at a facility off of Gibson Boulevard SE, but because of the city of Albuquerque's animal ordinance, the company moved the animals onto KAFB.
News 13 tried to get a comment from LRRI, but a lab spokesperson said they do not discuss their animal operations publicly because of security reasons.
According to the lab's website it works on developing drugs for respiratory illnesses like asthma for hundreds of private clients.
It also conducts defense research on biological and chemical threats.
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