Decade of Advocacy

AV magazine issue 2, 2011 2011 Issue #2 AAVS + Advocacy Pets Betrayed
Crystal Miller-Spiegel

Pound seizure, the sale or release of dogs and cats from pounds to laboratories for use in experimentation or teaching, is an issue that AAVS has advocated against since its beginning. Although significant progress has been made since then, pound seizure is still a common practice in some areas of the U.S.

In the absence of federal laws, several states prohibit pound seizure, but others either have no law or leave the decision to local authorities. Last year, Utah legislators voted to repeal mandatory pound seizure, leaving Minnesota, Ohio, and Oklahoma as the last three states formally requiring publicly funded pounds and shelters to release animals for experimentation. In 2008, a bill to end mandatory pound seizure in Oklahoma failed, and this year, legislation to ban the practice in Minnesota was introduced.

Other municipal or county-wide campaigns against pound seizure have been initiated by area residents, with the support of national animal advocacy organizations like AAVS. The Sacramento County (California) Board of Supervisors, for example, voted to end the sale of animals from the county shelter to local labs in August 2006. This followed years of pressure by local organizations and concerned citizens, effectively ending pound seizure in California. In Michigan, where pound seizure has been hotly debated for years, local activists have tackled the issue on a county-by-county basis, and now only two allow pound seizure. State legislation to further restrict pound seizure has also been introduced in the past and is expected to be reintroduced this year.

Inextricably tied to pound seizure are random source Class B animal dealers, which are federally regulated. They obtain dogs and cats, who may have been pets, from shelters and other sources and then sell them for use in research. Earning a dubious reputation, these Class B dealers have a long history of violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Perhaps the most notorious random source Class B animal dealer was C.C. Baird and his family's now defunct business, Martin Creek Kennels. An undercover investigation in 2002, which resulted in the documentary, Dealing Dogs, found horrific cruelty and neglect of dogs at Baird's kennel, leading to hundreds of AWA violations and resulting in fines totaling $262,700—the largest ever imposed by the USDA. Additionally, a 2009 USDA investigation of Chestnut Grove Kennels revealed the illegal acquisition of hundreds of dogs, and led to a federal indictment against the owners, who face up to $1 million in fines and 50 years in prison.

R&R Research is another random source animal dealer with a long track record of AWA violations, and AAVS has been urging USDA to use its authority to revoke the Michigan dealer's license for over a year. According to USDA Inspection Reports, since 2007, R&R has violated the AWA eight times for illegally acquiring animals. In 2009, citizens in Montcalm County, Michigan and national animal protection organizations, including AAVS, were successful in a campaign to end a contract agreement between the Montcalm County Animal Shelter and R&R Research, which "euthanized" and disposed of animals in exchange for live dogs and cats who were sold to labs. A 2009 report entitled "Dying to Learn," which was released by AAVS's education division Animalearn, helped to shed light on random source Class B dealers, especially as related to animals used in education.

Further implicating random source Class B dealers was a 2010 Government Accountability Office report that outlined USDA's failure to enforce the AWA as it concerns these animal brokers. Additionally, a report by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that random source dealers are not needed for federally-funded research. Congress has also considered action on this issue with the introduction of the Pet Safety and Protection Act, legislation to prohibit Class B dealers from selling random source animals, including those acquired from shelters.

Despite these measures, eight random source animal dealers still operate in the U.S., and most of them have been or are currently under investigation by USDA for violating the AWA. However, in 2000, there were more than twice as many of these dealers in business, which, hopefully, indicates a sure decline in this scandalous business.

Read more from this issue of the AV Magazine
Ending the Use of Animals in Science