About Pound Seizure

Pound seizure is the sale or release of dogs and/or cats from a pound or shelter to a research, testing, or educational facility.
It is hard to imagine that dogs and cats are still being used as expendable tools in lethal experiments, and even more so that some of these animals were once accustomed to life in a human home and are now confined in a laboratory cage. Two states in the U.S.—Ohio and Oklahoma—still legally require that publicly funded shelters and pounds provide dogs and/or cats to institutions for experimental or educational purposes. While several states have passed laws banning pound seizure, other states allow it, and most states have no law either way, leaving the matter to local jurisdiction.

This horrible practice is a small, but troubling facet of the animal experimentation industry.

The History of Pound Seizure and Related State Laws

In 1867, AAVS founder, Caroline Earle White, helped to organize the first humane society in Pennsylvania and second nationwide, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PSPCA). Two years later, she founded the women's branch of the PSPCA, now called the Women’s Humane Society. Given her history with the local humane society, it is no surprise that White remained committed to the protection of animals in shelters and worked to eliminate pound seizure after founding the AAVS in 1883.

Since the late 1800s, the use of animals from pounds and shelters in laboratories has been a controversial issue in the animal advocacy and research communities due in part to the exposure by AAVS and other anti-vivisection organizations in the U.S. After World War II, as the use of animals in research began to boom and the biomedical research community acquired more power, laboratories and schools began to scramble to obtain animals to use as research, testing, and teaching subjects. Scientists turned first to pounds and shelters, which were places full of 'surplus' animals who could be acquired cheaply. The argument was made, and continues to be made today, that these animals are unwanted and are going to be euthanized anyway. Therefore, in the scientists' minds, their use in biomedical research was not only justified, but was also essential for the progress of modern medicine and increasing commercialization of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, household products, etc. However, the traits that make animals desirable as research subjects (i.e., healthy, non–aggressive) also make them more adoptable.

In addition, animals obtained from pounds or shelters have unknown genetic backgrounds and medical histories making experimental controls virtually impossible.

State Pound Seizure Laws

Beginning in the 1940s, laws were passed that required pounds and shelters to release dogs and cats to research laboratories. The majority of laws regarding animals in laboratories passed between 1945 and 1960 were generated by the National Society for Medical Research, which eventually evolved into the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR).

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York were among the first states that enacted laws requiring the release of animals in shelters or pounds to dealers. Though laws requiring the release of animals from pounds were first enacted in the 1940s and 1950s, some of them still exist today. Others have been repealed or amended, as a result of demands from the animal protection community. Find out your state’s law on pound seizure here.

National Legislation: Animal Welfare Act

In 1965, New York Congressman Joseph Y. Resnick introduced a federal bill in response to the story of Pepper, a Dalmatian who was stolen, sold to a research facility, and killed. This incident, along with a 1966 Life Magazine exposé entitled "Concentration Camps for Dogs," played an important role in the creation of the 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, now known as the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This was the first piece of federal legislation in the U.S. that established humane standards for the care, transport, and acquisition of animals used in laboratories, and it also required the regulation of dealers who sold animals to research institutions. In 1990, the Act was amended to define a minimum holding period (five days) for animals in shelters or pounds who are to be sold to research facilities. It specifies that this time will allow their 'owner' to claim them or give them an opportunity to be adopted. The amendment also established record keeping requirements for dealers who obtain companion animals from these sources.
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