We learn about animal abuse from documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While most of the records we receive are heartbreaking, occasionally we come across records that demonstrate how animals are just like us in the ways that truly matter, including in wanting their own freedom.
These are the stories of animals who so desperately yearned to be free from captivity that they took enormous risks to try to escape, and sometimes, they succeeded.
1. Aw, rats!
One day in January 2018, rats used in experiments at Medical University of South Carolina were moved between buildings in a transport cart. When one of the cages on the cart fell off, a quick rat snuck past the lab worker to his or her freedom. The rat stayed free for more than two weeks before being recaptured.
2. Enough monkeying around
The New Iberia Research Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is one of the largest primate research centers in the country—in 2018 they held more than 6,000 primates in captivity to breed them for future use in experiments. Last September, a group of 8 male macaque monkeys in an outdoor cage discovered that a corner of the sliding door broke off, which allowed them to grab the door and slide it open. Lab staff caught seven of the monkeys fairly quickly, but one of them, known only as “A 13X040,” escaped into the nearby woods. The research center did a round-the-clock monkey hunt but didn’t find him until the next day.
3. A game of hide and squeak
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a researcher negligently left 5 anesthetized mice unattended inside a machine used for imaging. The mice woke up and tried to escape, but could not find a way out of the machine. The mice were caught and put in a cage, but they were quick to realize the experimenter forgot to put the lid on their cage, so they escaped again! They were eventually recaptured.