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City to Consider Ordinance to Ban Animal Testing

The Alameda City government is considering a ban on animal testing on city owned property and is seeking residents’ feedback on the draft ordinance. The council will vote on the ordinance on April 16.

Alameda Post - City Hall with a circle and slash of a bunny and a syringe, indicating no animal testing

The proposed language for the ordinance reads, “Except as specifically required by state or federal law, no person shall engage in or permit animal testing or experimentation on any property owned or controlled by the City of Alameda in its proprietary capacity.” The ordinance will impact most of Alameda Point, marinas, and areas in the state’s Tidelands Trust. It excludes facilities such as animal shelters, hospitals, and groomers.

The consideration of this ordinance comes off the heels of the City Council’s rejection of a lease to biotech company Science Corporation over their use of animal experimentation, including primates, last year. City Councilmembers Trish Herrera Spencer and Malia Vella were inspired to take it a step further and ban any animal experiments on City property.

The City hosted a community workshop to provide information to residents and receive feedback at Mastick Senior Center on Wednesday, March 6. The special meeting was held in anticipation of the topic being continuous with dense information.

“There could be nuance in regard to what we come up with based on the facts as we get them,” Herrera Spencer said. She noted that she appreciates the feedback she has gotten so far, which mostly has been in favor of the ordinance. “What I saw was overwhelmingly against animal testing,” she said. “And the comments, I think, actually went beyond.”

Representatives for bioresearch and life sciences companies were present at the workshop on Wednesday.

“We want to make sure that it’s possible to continue to conduct biomedical research anywhere in the United States,” said California Biomedical Research Association President Amanda Banks.

“Biotechnology, biomedical research is huge in California, and particularly in the Bay Area,” Banks added. “The Bay Area is the birthplace of biotechnology. It’s kind of strange that a city would want to really limit the kinds of facilities and companies that they could bring in by passing such an ordinance. In our perspective, it’s really not economic development, but just the greater good of biomedical research.”

Alameda Post - hanger 11 at Alameda Point
The City rejected the lease of Building 11 (on right) to Science Corp over animal testing concerns. Photo Richard Bangert.

Banks said she was concerned about the conflict between the ordinance and state or federal regulations requiring animal testing before proceeding to human trials. “There’s eventually going to be a step when they’re going to have to go into animal models,” Banks said. “What we’re seeing in the United States in general and California is a lot of movement of facilities to contract research organizations that might be out of state or out of the country or offshoring the research itself because of the regulatory burden and the difficulty to navigate the compliance issues. And that certainly could happen in Alameda, where the facilities would just move.”

Ryan Merkley, Director of Research Advocacy for the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), rejects the premise that it conflicts with federal regulation. The organization was responsible for a letter-writing campaign advocating against Science Corp’s lease.

“There are very few federal regulations that actually require the use of animals,” Merkley said. “Most of the time, the FDA itself will tell companies, ‘We don’t require animals. We require data.’ But a lot of companies don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to question federal agencies. They are just going to go along and get along, and so I think it’s rather troubling that companies we are entrusting to develop and deliver treatments for the public, for patients, aren’t really doing everything they can to do via new and technologically advanced methods.”

Those in favor of the ordinance argue it will help pressure both companies and federal agencies to develop and validate alternative testing models.

“As long as city governments or state governments or federal agencies are making it easier to continue to use animals in labs, there are not going to be any strings attached,” Merkley said. “There’s not going to be any incentive for companies to innovate and find replacements for animals.”

But Banks said she believes change is needed at the federal level to stimulate alternatives, and local ordinances will do little to affect companies or researchers.

“We need to have federal regulations that recognize alternatives that already may exist or recognize and reward people for coming up with new alternatives, because as it stands right now, you could come up with a brilliant alternative…but if the FDA is not going to accept it, why would you bother going through all that trouble?” Banks said. “I think it really falls to the legislators, the regulatory agencies, and the science to have alternatives that they really feel can prove safety and efficacy or effectiveness in a human being.”

Alameda Post - a bag of cosmetics
Some common products are still tested on animals.

Merkley cited Vanda Pharmaceuticals, which sued the FDA for requiring unnecessary animal research studies in 2019, as an example of companies fighting against regulation.

“Not only are companies trying to change these things, but there are prime examples of biotech institutes across the world that are doing things without animals,” Merkley said. “It’s always strange to me that somebody wants to be part of a company that is on the cutting edge, but also says, ‘Well, there’s nothing we can do. We’re going to throw up our hands and just do whatever the federal government says.’ That’s not how science should progress. Science should always be trying to innovate and push boundaries in terms of making things quicker and more compassionately and humanely.”

Janet Davis, who sits on the board of directors at Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter,  also was present at the workshop to advocate for the ordinance.

“It’s not going to be reform from within,” Davis said. “It’s only going to be from pressure on the outside, and I think something like Alameda doing this, it gives other people, it gives other communities the idea that they can do this, and it’s a statement of what our values are.”

According to the City, Alameda is home to approximately 35 businesses and 3,300 life sciences jobs, which include pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and food processing. However, it is unclear how many of those businesses would be impacted by the ban if it should go into effect. An ordinance banning animal testing passed in the city of Everett, Massachusetts in 2022. Other than Everett, there is little to no history of other animal testing bans of this nature in the U.S.

“[I know of] state ordinance, state laws that put restrictions on the use of animals, including California, which has certain restrictions on the use of cats and dogs and other animals, but I don’t know of another city that has an ordinance like this,” Merkley said.

“This community is a very animal-loving community and we have made it known many times,” Davis said. “I think our city leaders really do understand that we care for animals and want humane treatment of animals. I think this vote would go along with our community’s expression of progressive values and desiring good outcomes for both animals and people.”

Residents and businesses can continue to provide their thoughts and opinions through an online feedback form until April 16, which will be summarized for City Council.

Vicky Nguyen is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at

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