Posted by Monica Engebretson on 27th April 2016
California should ban laboratories from using shelter animals for experiments
Many people are shocked to learn that in many states across the US it is legal for laboratories to obtain dogs and cats from publicly funded animal shelters to be used in painful experiments.
While 17 states now prohibit the practice, people may be further surprised that the normally progressive California is not one of them. Currently California law allows shelters to sell unclaimed animals to laboratories for use in tests, as long as they post a public notice.
This shocking practice, known as ’pound seizure’, actually has a long and sordid history in the US. By the late 1940s the animal research industry had successfully pushed legislation in several states to legally require animal shelters to provide shelter dogs and cats to laboratories.
Historically, the practice has been rife with problems, including incidents where family pets have been stolen and sold to laboratories or lost animals being used in experiments before their families were able to claim them. It’s a heart-breaking thought.
But despite this, pound seizure was largely ignored by the public until 1965 when a Dalmatian named Pepper was sold into research by an animal dealer who collected animals from shelters and other sources. Despite efforts by her family to track down and retrieve her, Pepper died in a laboratory experiment less than a month after she went missing.
Pepper’s story gained national attention. As a result of public outcry, the US Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (now known as the Animal Welfare Act) in 1966. However, the Act fell short of its intended goal. Regulating dog dealers proved to be difficult and costly and dogs continue to be stolen and abused at the hands of dog dealers. That’s why it’s so important for individual states to take a stand.
Seventeen US states (and Washington DC) have banned pound seizure. But 22 are silent on the issue and, shockingly, 11 states have laws that explicitly allow pound seizure. California is one state where pound seizure is explicitly allowed under state law.
That’s why, together with the State Humane Association of California, Cruelty Free International has spearheaded a bill (AB 2269) to ban pound seizure in California once and for all. This week the bill passed the California Assembly with 70 votes in favor and 0 opposed! The bill now moves to the California Senate.
Pound seizure erodes the very core of a shelter's purpose – to care for animals in need, find new homes for homeless animals and to reunite families with lost companions. This is why animal shelters across the California have rejected pound seizure.
We think it is time for California state law to match common practice, modern standards, and public expectation by officially prohibiting pound seizure, strengthening protection for shelter animals and setting an example for other states to follow.