Animal Writes
© sm
29 July 2001 Issue
Pound Seizure: Is it in your friend’s future?

by [email protected] 

Has your dog or cat ever “gotten out”? Did you ever have to post “Lost Dog” signs on your street? Maybe you should add “medical testing facility” to the list of places you search for your dog.

Now if you are a resident of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, or Hawaii, you may have nothing to fear with regard to pound seizure, because pound seizure is illegal in your state. But if you live elsewhere, you should be aware that animals that are turned into your local shelters for whatever reason could very well end up on the business end of a vivisectionists blade. And if you live in Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota or Utah, you can bet they do, because pound seizure is not only legal, but absolutely required for all government-run animal control facilities. All other states have no law one way or the other on pound seizure and leave it up to local governments to choose whether or not county-run facilities can engage in this very disturbing and blatantly unethical practice. Although there have been several anti-pound seizure bills before Congress, animal activists have thus far failed to have one enacted.

Worldwide, pound seizure is strictly forbidden in The United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, and Holland.

What is pound seizure? Well, when an animal is turned over to a county pound or ASPCA they are held for a period of time, usually five days. If they are not claimed or adopted within that time period they are required by law to be relinquished to laboratories for experimentation.

It’s true that in the United States, millions of animals are humanely euthanized in our nations’ pounds every year, and the animals that are sent to testing facilities surely die as well. But their death is not swift and painless, and is far from humane. There is evidence that these animals endure horrible pain at the hands of vivisectors and other experimenters. According to a report from a PeTA undercover investigator, “One example is at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, where ……dogs seized from the local pound were being used in hideously painful scabies experiments. In the experiments, dogs were infected with scabies, a skin disease caused by microscopic mites that spread over their entire bodies, causing intense, prolonged itching, open wounds, and, eventually, death. One dog named Genesee was infected so severely, she turned circles constantly, unable to rest because of the intense itching. She cried out when handled, wouldn't eat or drink, and lost her balance; her anguished howls could be heard through closed doors. She finally died, without veterinary treatment, because that would have 'interfered'; with the experiment. WSU was later charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act and fined $20,000; but the local pound continues to release animals to the university.”

Who are these victims? These are the same animals who are presented to shelters by guardians who must give them up for a variety of reasons such as allergies, moving, etc. These misguided and often desperate people have a fervent but usually unrealistic hope that the animals will be adopted into loving homes. Or these are the animals rescued by good Samaritans, helpful individuals, police or animal control officers. These are the very same animals that have been abandoned by their families, have run away from home, or have simply gotten lost. Almost all of them had an earlier life as a beloved companion or are the litters of unspayed cats and dogs.

All animal welfare, animal rights and animal advocacy organizations, without exception, are opposed to pound seizure. On this issue, we present a united front for the animals, yet federal legislation outlawing pound seizure is not forthcoming. The official statement of the Humane Society of the United States is clear and unequivocal:

The HSUS Policy Statement:

Pound Seizure
The Humane Society of the United States is convinced that the surrender of impounded animals from public and private shelters to biomedical research laboratories, training institutions, pharmaceutical houses, and other facilities that use animals for experimental teaching or testing purposes contributes to a breakdown of effective animal-control programs through abandonment of animals by owners who rightfully fear such animals may be subjected to painful use. The Society believes that animal shelters should not be a cheap source of supply for laboratories or pursue, voluntarily or otherwise, a practice that will inevitably destroy public confidence in its operation and thereby lessen public support.

It is, therefore, the policy of The HSUS to oppose the release of impounded animals from public and private animal shelters to biomedical research laboratories or related animal-using facilities and to oppose any measure, administrative or legislative, that would make this practice mandatory. Further, the Society condemns any organization, calling itself a humane society or a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, that voluntarily sells or gives animals in its custody to biomedical research laboratories.

This is very strong opposition indeed. Not only does the practice of pound seizure destroy the public trust in the organization that is engaging in it, but the lives of the animals that are condemned to die in research laboratories are pure misery. This is especially true of those once-beloved family companions, the ones who slept in the beds of small boys, absorbed the tears of teenaged girls and supported the wife who suffered through a violent marriage. These are the dogs and cats of America’s families, and once again, we have broken our covenant with them.

But wait, it isn’t just the benefactors of these agencies or the animals themselves who get the shaft in this deal! It is the American public who listen to the results of medical experimentation that takes place under such a lack of control that the variables of these animals cannot possibly produce fair and unbiased medical results. So the money spent on animal testing for medical purposes, while never money well spent, is especially spent in a manner most unwise because the results cannot help humankind after all! (How’s that for poetic justice?) The medical and personal histories of these animals, are, for the most part, an unknown factor. These animals, random as they are, yield random and debatable results. How then, do we benefit at all from this experimentation? Well, there is one way, money. These animals are purchased “on the cheap” so experimenters use pound animals instead of switching to humane alternatives to animal testing. It may seem cheap at first glance, but these animals are required to undergo a period of "conditioning"; before becoming part of an experiment and have a higher mortality rate in laboratories than dogs and cats that are bred purposely for experimentation. Little wonder since they once knew the love and friendship of a human and were then betrayed. Depression must surely follow on the heels of such abandonment and this may play a part in their high mortality rate.

And what about those animals bred purposely for experimentation? These poor souls are raised from birth specifically to be used in laboratories. Our old arch enemy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a policy against using animals from pounds or shelters, because of the unrealistic expectation of true and verifiable results from random animals. However, they don’t really go to too much trouble to actually demand verification of the source of animals it buys from dealers, according to the Humane Society of the United States. The NIH has estimated that, of the 201,931 dogs experimented on in the United States in l984, only about 55,000 were "purpose bred." This means well over 100,000 animals were quite possibly that sweet Fifi who lived down the street with the little old lady who died, or the happy-go-lucky Rover who slept over with your kid’s friend.

So all you intelligent Iowans, mighty Minnesotans, optimistic Oklahomans, stellar South Dakotans and unified Utahites, (Utahites?) get busy and get the laws changed. Educate yourself on the issue and talk to local leaders and commission people to find out how they personally stand on the issue. Work with them to get the law repealed by starting a petition, letter-writing campaign, letters to the editor or get a sympathetic television reporter to do a “did you know” story on the nightly news. They can use a video of animals in laboratories available at any of the major animal-rights organizations, tv reporters love animal videos!

And if you live in a state that stands mute on the subject of pound seizure, write a letter to your local animal control director and ask him or her to write you back and tell you where they stand on pound seizure, then decide for yourself what, if any, action needs to be taken. You may want to work for a ban in your community if you find local authorities have no problems engaging in pound seizure. You can also campaign for a state law.

If your state already forbids pound seizure, be ever vigilant for efforts to change it. No matter what state we live in we should all be working towards federal legislation against pound seizure because every animal in every state is at risk due to interstate traffic in animals. So even if you live in the very enlightened states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, or Hawaii, your animals could still end up in pounds in states that do allow, indeed require pound seizure, and until the laws are federally and uniformly enforced against pound seizure, no unwanted or lost animal is safe from the vivisectionist's knife.

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