ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Bernalillo County commissioners have decided to exempt a large research laboratory from the county's animal protection laws.

The commission voted to approve the amended animal welfare ordinance at Tuesday's meeting. With the vote, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute will be exempt from enforcement of the new law as long as the lab follows approved research protocols.

In crafting the new law, commissioners borrowed language from a state law that exempts federally licensed research labs from the state's animal cruelty law, the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/V6Jicy) reported.

The private institute specializes in finding causes and cures for respiratory diseases that range from asthma to lung cancer. It employs nearly 1,200 scientists, technicians and support staff and has an annual budget of $132 million.

Lab officials had hinted to commissioners that without an exemption, the institute would have to do business elsewhere.

The proposal to exempt the lab initially spurred a flood of emails from animal rights supporters in California, Washington and Connecticut and as far away as Australia.

The new animal ordinance also bans the practice of tethering dogs. However, owners can get waivers from the county's animal services department.

The ordinance takes effect in early 2013.


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The commission did postpone voting on one section of the ordinance that would have banned the sale of rabbits in pet and livestock stores. They will consider that proposal in January.

Matthew Pepper, director of the animal services department, said the intent was to reduce the number of abandoned rabbits that end up at shelters.