BOOKS: How Shelter Pets Are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)
How Shelter Pets Are Brokered for Experimentation:
Understanding Pound Seizure
by Allie Phillips
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.
(4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706), 2010. 220
pages, hardcover. $34.95.
American Humane Association director of public policy Allie
Phillips has in How Shelter Pets Are Brokered for Experimentation
written by far the best researched report on pound seizure to appear
between book covers since the late Animal Welfare Institute founder
Christine Stevens contributed a long chapter about it to Animals &
Their Legal Rights (1990).
Other discussions of pound seizure have usually intimated
that the crux of the issue is that evil bunchers supplying laboratory
animal dealers sometimes steal pets. In actuality, the evil
bunchers mostly traffic in pound animals who have not been rehomed,
or puppy mill culls who remain unsold after the picks of each litter
are snapped up at dog auctions.
Historically, most dealers who supplied dogs and cats to
labs were either for-profit animal control contractors, or worked
closely with for-profit animal control contractors, who were
underpaid (if paid at all) in the expectation that they would earn
most of their incomes by selling unclaimed strays. Thus the culprits
most responsible for the existence of this inherently abusive system
were the voters, taxpayers, and public officials who looked away
instead of taking responsiblity for addressing animal homelessness in
“Pound seizure,” in the strictest sense of the term, refers
only to the mostly bygone practice, in states with laws that allowed
it, of laboratories and lab suppliers being empowered to “adopt”
any pound animal they wanted. This put humane societies that held
animal control contracts in the position of being forced to surrender
animals for painful and lethal experiments. In animal advocacy
parlance, “pound seizure” eventually came to mean the release of any
shelter animals for lab use, even if the release was (or is)
Thirteen states passed legislation prohibiting either pound
seizure or pound release between 1976 and 1986. Pound seizure and
release go on in some states, but tend to become controversial and
be abandoned wherever the practices come under public scrutiny–in
part because most lab animal users now prefer to avoid notice.
Michigan is among the states where pound seizure and pound
release of animals to labs continue. Phillips has been involved in
trying to end both pound seizure and pound release in Michigan for
about a decade.
Much of How Shelter Pets Are Brokered for Experimentation
centers on the Michigan struggle. Phillips appears to be aware that
she is helping to direct the end game for pound seizure and pound
release. Phillips hopes to rally support for eradicating the last
vestiges of an old abuse, yet the numbers of animals involved have
diminished so much that more pound animals die these days from
fighting in the kennels.
Just 947 dogs and 230 cats were sold to labs in 2007 by the
10 remaining Class B dealers. These animals amounted to 1.3% of the
dogs used in labs, and 1% of the cats. Even if all of them came
from animal shelters, each of hundreds of dealers sold more
impounded dogs and cats to labs every year between the 1966 passage
of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, which became the present
Animal Welfare Act in 1971, and the most recent relevant amendments
to the Animal Welfare Act in 1990.
Phillips’ employer, the American Humane Association, has
not taken a leading role against either pound seizure or pound
release in nearly 70 years. The Animal Welfare Institute (1952),
the Humane Society of the U.S. (1954), and the International Society
for Animal Rights (1959) were all founded by former donors,
volunteers, and staff of the AHA who became disillusioned when the
AHA retreated from previous opposition to pound seizure and pound
Phillips’ sincerity is not in question. She fought pound
seizure and pound release long before the AHA hired her. Longtime
observers, however, cannot help but notice that the AHA only
resumed giving pound seizure and release prominence, after a a
hiatus of decades, after the issue reached the mop-up phase.
Meanwhile the AHA has avoided taking conspicuous positions on other
aspects of laboratory use of animals, and has taken compromised
positions on farm animal issues, such as endorsing caged egg
production and decompression of chickens, which recall the
spinelessness of the AHA on pound seizure and release for nearly half
of the 20th century.