February 2nd, 2015
Pound Seizure: How Family Dogs and Cats End Up Being Used for Research
We don't know much about Roni's background, but there are sure signs that he was a family dog before ending up in a shelter. He was almost overly obedient - he wouldn't step foot in the kitchen while I was cooking. He didn't jump on the furniture, and he never had an "accident" in the house. I know everyone thinks they have the best dog, but Roni truly is the best.
Spoken like a devoted mother! Nina Farley adopted Roni (short for Macaroni) from a rescue group that saved him from a high-kill shelter in Texas, a state where pound seizure is allowed. According to Nina, The shelter was inundated with animals, and each one doesn't get much time for a chance at rescue.
It was easy to fall in love with happy-go-lucky Macaroni when I met him to take his and Nina's photo while on assignment with NEAVS
, where Nina worked. I still shudder to think what his life would have been like, had he not been saved by Nina and the rescue group. Thinking of the thousands of other dogs who weren't rescued is just too painful. It is appalling that family dogs like Roni are allowed by law to be taken from shelters and sold to labs for animal testing. says Nina. I cannot imagine Roni, who was obviously accustomed to a family home, being snatched from his life as a loving companion and tossed into life in a laboratory cage. I don't know how such a good dog wound up in a Texas shelter, but he didn't belong there. And he certainly doesn't belong in a laboratory. Instead of waiting at my feet for his daily midday treat, he could be in the middle of a cruel toxicity test. If you have any doubt pound seizure should be illegal, just think about your own dog who knows what a loving home is, somehow winding up in a shelter, and then sentenced to be part of a painful or terminal experiment, or lethal testing. It's not just heartbreaking, it's wrong.
Roni was one of the lucky ones. Each year, thousands of lost, homeless or abandoned dogs and cats are sold or released to labs and veterinary colleges, to be used in research and testing. The practice of pound seizure is legal across Canada and in the U.S.
It has been banned in only 17 states*, and the District of Columbia, and is illegal in several European countries. Within the U.S., many states give authority to individual municipalities to regulate pound seizure. Some states indicate that owners must approve of the animal being released to research institutions. However, in states like Oklahoma, publicly funded shelters are legally required to turn over unclaimed dogs and cats to institutions for research and educational purposes. In plain terms, if your very own dog or cat ended up in a shelter, he or she could be handed over to a lab, used in testing and research, and then likely killed.
I asked Liz White, of the animal advocacy organization Animal Alliance of Canada
, about how many shelter animals are used in research in Canada. She states, The latest numbers from the Canadian Council on Animal Care (the national organization responsible for setting and maintaining standards for the ethical use and care of animals in research) are from 2011. In that year, 5
158 random sourced cats and 6
484 random sourced dogs were used in research. The total is 11,642 or 71% of all the dogs and cats used for research in 2011. So, 71% of the animals used in research were from shelters
. Fewer animals are now euthanized at the veterinary colleges, and are instead cared for after surgeries and brought back to shelters for adoption. Since 2011, however, the number of animals seized at shelters has gone up. According to Liz, The exact numbers are not available because these institutions are exempt from Freedom of Information requests.
Alanna Devine, Director of Animal Advocacy at the Montreal SPCA in Quebec, Canada, who also advocates for an end to pound seizure, says There is essentially no legislation in Quebec on this subject but there is a lot of hearsay that private for-profit pounds are indeed selling animals to laboratories, but there is nothing we can confirm. We have recommended that a prohibition on pound seizures be included in the provincial animal welfare legislation, but because we dont have facts or statistics to back up our request, it may not be adopted.
"What's more shocking is, as of today in the U.S., so few states have banned pound seizure. NEAVS was part of a coalition effort that made Massachusetts the first state to repeal its pound seizure law back in 1983. U.S. progress is far too slow, especially given that new technologies no longer require us to use outdated, unreliable animal experiments. Even our closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee, is no longer needed for biomedical research. No animal belongs in a lab cage. But imagine being a dog who knew what it meant to be part of a family, being betrayed in the most egregious way?" states NEAVS. "Everyone who cares about their companion animals needs to know about this often hidden practice. Keeping it under the radar and a dirty little secret is part of the reason it still exists in far too many states."
The practice of pound seizure is not only ethically wrong, it also yields flawed science and is an inefficient use of research funds. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council of Europe advise against it, and a publication of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH publication 72-333) reports that the use of pound dogs may actually increase research costs. Many of those costs are derived from tax-payer funded grants. You have a voice! You can take immediate action.
If you are in the U.S., contact your local animal shelter and ask about the laws in your state, and specifically what your municipality allows under that law. And whether you are in the U.S. or in Canada, contact your local legislators to ask that they introduce
and pass legislation to repeal the pound seizure law in your state. Tell them it is a matter of common decency to keep everyone's lost or abandoned companion animals safe. You can also adopt animals instead of buying from breeders and pet stores
. By adopting dogs and cats, you are saving lives, keeping animals out of labs, freeing up much needed space in shelters for incoming animals who need care, and reducing the number of animals who languish in shelters while waiting for a home, or, euthanasia.
*States that have banned pound seizure: CT, DE, HI, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA, WV, DC
This blog is the first in a six part series between We Animals
(New England Anti-Vivisection Society) . In 2014, I worked with NEAVS throughout the USA to document the lives of animals rescued from research.