For most animals unfortunate enough to be designated as mere ‘tools for research’ their only escape from the laboratory is an injection of lethabarb.
For one lucky cat however, a very different fate lay ahead…
Leo originally came to the attention of HRA back in August 2010. A Sydney research facility using cats in a study aimed at improving surgical techniques for vision correction in humans, ran out of funding. Luckily for Leo one of the researchers had a conscience and allowed a rescue group to find a home for him, rather than end his life, or offer him up for further research elsewhere. By this stage Leo had already endured invasive procedures, including the removal of his nictitating membranes (third eyelids) and surgery (corneal pocket) to his right eye. Prior to this Leo had been used in vaccination studies at a different facility.
In early September 2010, Leo was ‘couriered’ from Sydney and came into HRA’s possession at Melbourne Airport. In the crate handed over to us, peering through the cage wire, was a sweet young cat who immediately stole our hearts. We could only imagine what this little guy had been through, and promised that from this day forward he would be safe, and free from the stress and pain of experimentation.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of animals used for research in Australia are not as lucky as Leo, they remain trapped within the system, moving from one distressing procedure, test or study to the next, or have their life terminated once the researchers have finished with them. A very disturbing reality given we know that just like Leo, every one of the millions of animals used each year is a sentient individual, who deserves the chance to live their life free from exploitation and suffering.
Despite his previous ordeals, and initial caution of humans, Leo blossomed into a happy affectionate cat that enjoyed the company of his doting human companions for his 13 years of freedom post-release. A great testament to the ability of animals to forgive the past, if treated with kindness and compassion. He sadly passed away on August 17 2023, the anniversary of his release from the laboratory.
While we celebrate Leo’s fortune of a life after research, he also reminds us of the millions of animals less fortunate than he was. He reminds us every day that there is much work to do if we are to put an end to this unethical and unnecessary industry.
We’ll keep fighting for animals just like Leo, and believe that with your help we can create the change that will eventually see animal experimentation consigned to the scrapheap of human wrongs, where people look back on this dark chapter in human evolution and wonder just how on earth we got it so horribly wrong.
Find out more about the Right to Release Campaign.
Leo escapes from the lab – children’s book
Written by Helen Marston and beautifully illustrated by Alex Jasinski who has truly captured the essence of each of the characters, “Leo escapes from the lab” tells the story of Leo, his little sidekick Alfie, his big brother Rocky and the human characters he met along his journey. Needless to say, “Leo escapes from the lab” is a true story and the characters are all real!
All profits raised from the sale of the books will go toward HRA’s work to end animal experiments.