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” ʻPound seizureʼ is a term commonly used to describe the practice of using lost, homeless and abandoned dogs and cats from animal control facilities or pounds for use in experimentation (research, teaching and testing).

Animal Alliance of Canadaʼs (AAC) opposition to pound seizure is shared by all Canadian humane societies and animal protection organizations throughout Canada. Ontario is the only province left in Canada where pound seizure is the law. Quebec remains one of the few jurisdictions that remains silent on the issue of pound contractors supplying lost pet animals to research in the absence of any legal requirement to do so. “

In 2007, 9,175 lost and abandoned dogs an the 2007 statistics from the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC), of the 4,243 cats used in experiments, 3,170 came from pounds, a staggering 75%. For the same year, 6,005 or 52% of the 11,483 dogs came from pounds.    See the Animals for Research Act Ontario

Thereʼs a part of Ontario that you may not know well, but let me introduce you. We are one of two provinces left in Canada that still allows shelter animals to be sold for research and product testing. Not only is it allowed, but itʼs the law. Shelters are legally required to hand over abandoned pets when approached by registered research facilities.

Itʼs called “pound seizure” and it means that any cat or dog that is lost, homeless, or abandoned can be sold for experimentation, whether it is teaching, testing or research.

This likely comes as a shock to you. Were you aware that animals who are not claimed at shelters in Ontario can be sold for research? This was news to me until recently when I heard about a wonderful organization here in Toronto, called Project Jessie.

They are a part of Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC) and they rescue over 300 dogs and cats per year from shelters where they are at risk of being sold for research. They take older animals, medically needy animals, and animals that need socialization or have other challenges. They work in cooperation with many groups and dedicated volunteers to rescue the animals, get them appropriate veterinary care, shelter them and then find them permanent, loving homes.

Some good news amidst this sadness – the University of Guelph and the Ontario Veterinary College have made three significant decisions:

  • no more pound animals will be used at the University for teaching or experimentation;
  • all animals used in the Veterinary Skills Training & Enhancement Program (VSTEP) are to be recovered and adopted out;
  • there will be no more animals killed for practice surgeries by veterinary students.

While this is a great start, it also goes to show that Ontarioʼs animal laws are desperately in need of revision.
What can you do? Itʼs simple. Send a letter to Ontarioʼs Premier and let him know how you feel. You can also send a letter to the Premier of Quebec while youʼre it. What else? Educate. Let people know. Pass along this article to friends, family, coworkers and ask them to do the same.

If we all stand up and speak up, something is bound to change. Until then, our lost and abandoned pets are left vulnerable and at risk for being sold for research.

Please donʼt pass this by – it only takes a moment.

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Tags: abandoned, cats, dogs, kittens, lost, pets, product, puppies, rescue, research, More…shelter, testing

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Comment by Caryn Charlie Liles on June 26, 2011 at 9:19pm
Have you seen Food Inc.? It completely blew me away. I couldn't eat meat for a few weeks after I saw that. It really upset me greatly. I hope we come up with a way to test things without using animals in the future. (I know. Keep dreaming, Caryn.)
Comment by Naomi Eaton on June 26, 2011 at 9:13pm
I can't help but think of how much worse the average factory farmed animal has it compared to research animals...and I agree, abuses have definitely occurred in the name of science.
Comment by Caryn Charlie Liles on June 26, 2011 at 9:11pm

You're so welcome! I think that you're smart to seek out an unbiased source as well. We will always have two ends of a spectrum (heck, look at PETA, right?) so looking at all angles is your best bet.

I know what you mean about cutting edge research and it's something that I struggle with like crazy. Research done on animals and humans has been invaluable in the past and unfortunately the side effects or methods haven't always been pleasant or fair. I think the hardest pill to swallow is that humans can choose to be part of it, whereas animals don't have a choice in the matter and generally are not treated as humanely as we'd like to see. There are a lot of closed doors and not a lot of regulation that is followed...which is the scariest part.

Where do we draw the line, right? What's the difference between using cats/dogs and lab rats? Ah, the questions we could ask.

Nit pick away – it's the only way we get real answers and make people think. :)

Comment by Naomi Eaton on June 24, 2011 at 8:25am
Thank you for such a detailed response!  I appreciate you doing your research.  I agree that the waiting period is far too short.  It sounds as though regulations could be tightened up as well; I'll have to do more reading from a source that is less invested in the outcome (I mean the AAC; I am glad there are groups defending animal rights but they aren't exactly impartial).  I disagree that research that "isn't cutting edge" doesn't have value, but that's probably nit picking.
Comment by Caryn Charlie Liles on June 24, 2011 at 12:26am

Hi Naomi,

Thanks so much for your comment - sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I wanted to make sure I had all the facts first, so I spoke with AAC and here is the response. I hope you find it helpful. I know that for me, it shocks me. If I lost my dog and a shelter picked it up and three days later, my beloved Fido is sold for research and put through who-knows-what, heads would be rolling.

Anywho, here's the clarification:

The Animals For Research Act states that any animal picked up as a stray, must be held for 72 hours not including the day they were picked up. A municipality may choose to extend that requirement if they wish. To my mind, this is not very long.
 
I disagree that animal based research is critical to scientific progress. In fact if you look at the history, in several cases, animal research actually slowed down the discovery process or made for horrible errors (The Thalidomide tragedy was one dramatic example - the drug tested fine in animals but was horrific when used in people).  There are many examples where the animal and human test results varied widely.
 
In some ways though this aspect is irrelevant. Random source (pound) animals are rarely used in "cutting edge" research (finding a cure of various cancers, AIDS etc) More typically they are used for exploratory issues "What happens if we do this?"  And because random source animals are just that -random - they are not that useful for critical testing, or if they are used, they need a much larger group size to be statistically valid.
 
As for the CCAC - it is a paper organization with no teeth whatsoever. Membership is optional, inspections are sporadic (and always announced ahead of time) and if they do make recommendations for changes in protocol they are just that - recommendations. They have never removed a GAP certificate from any organization even if they identified gross deficiencies. By their own (optional, self reported) records, many of the animals are being used at the highest levels of pain and many of those animals do not receive vet care because they consider it could interfere with results. Those statistics and reports are available to the public online.
 
As for the statement "using strays that would eventually be put down seems reasonable to me. "
The same animals that the researchers want - fairly young, healthy, easy to handle, well socialized, are the same animals that are the best candidates for rehoming. It seems like a betrayal of trust to take these animals that have already lived in a home and lock them up in a laboratory - sometimes for many years.

Comment by Naomi Eaton on June 14, 2011 at 8:58am

How long is the waiting period before the animal is sold for research?  I realize this will be an unpopular opinion but if it is a reasonable length of time I don't have an issue with this. 

 

Unfortunately, animal research is very beneficial to scientific progress (though the value of cats and dogs over rats can be disputed).  In order to use research animals, laboratories in Ontario must adherence to the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) as verified by receipt of a Good Animal Practice (GAP) certificate from the CCAC.  Animals will not be used unless there is credible scientific merit for doing so and there is no feasible alternative way to carry out the research.  The least invasive methods are used, the minimum amount of animals are used, the people working with them are trained and the animals receive veterinary care. 

 

Without animal research, we would not have numerous modern medical advancements (smallpox, polio and tetanus vaccines, insulin therapy for diabetes and pacemakers are a few).  If animals are still needed for research and are cared for humanely, using strays that would eventually be put down seems reasonable to me. 

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