| Issues | Research
| Data | Regulation
In any discussion
of the use of pound animals in research and education, certain
terms are used whose precise meaning may be unfamiliar to many
members of the public. Those terms are defined below:
facility established by local ordinance in which stray, abandoned
and lost animals are held, or "impounded" for a period of
time. The purpose of impoundment is to allow time for owners
to claim lost pets or to find new homes for the animals. Animals
neither claimed nor adopted at the end of this period are
put to death.
-A facility established and maintained by a private group
to house abandoned animals. Like pounds, most shelters must
put to death animals that remain unadopted after a period
of time. In some locales, shelters also serve as pounds, receiving
a fee for service from the municipal government for holding
stray or lost animals.
Animal -A term used by scientists and those who keep records
of animal acquisition to refer to any animal that has not
been bred specifically for research. All pound animals are
considered to be random-source animals.
Animal -Any animal bred and reared specifically for research
purposes by a licensed animal breeder.
-A term that denotes a wide variety of veterinary procedures
that may be performed on a random-source animal prior to its
inclusion in a scientific study. Conditioning may simply involve
vaccinating an animal against a single disease and holding
it for observation to ensure it is healthy enough for a short-term
experiment. If the animal is needed for a longer term project,
conditioning may be more extensive. It may include quarantine
of the animal for up to six weeks, and treatment and prevention
of disease including a range of vaccinations (against rabies,
distemper, etc.), antibiotic therapy and frequent monitoring
tests, as well as a special nutritional regimen.
research on animals is essential to progress in biomedical science.
For many types of investigations, studies on animals offer the
best hope, short of experiments on humans themselves, for finding
the cause, treatment, cure and prevention of disease. Without
research, these diseases will continue to inflict pain, disability
and death on millions of people and animals each year.
year a small percentage of unwanted animals, which would otherwise
be destroyed in pounds and animal shelters in Michigan, are
released to universities, hospitals and other research institutions
for use in essential bio- medical research and for veterinary
and medical education. Much misinformation surrounds this
practice, resulting in widespread public confusion about why
and how the biomedical research community uses pound animals.
following information is intended to present the facts behind
the issue and to explain the need for pound animals in biomedical
research and education.
pound dogs and cats comprise only a tiny percentage of all
animals used in biomedical research and education programs
in Michigan and throughout the United States, they are critically
important to those programs for both scientific and economic
reasons. Less than 2 percent of the more than 10 million unwanted
animals in the United States and 500,000 in Michigan that
are otherwise put to death in pounds and shelters each year,
are released for research. These unwanted animals play a vital
role in studies on health problems such as heart and kidney
disease, brain injury, stroke, blindness and deafness, and
for the education of future veterinarians and physicians.
pound animals used for research and education are unwanted
animals whose owners have not claimed them or for which adoptive
homes cannot be found. Research and educational institutions
acquire them through licensed dealers or directly from the
pounds. Dogs and cats from pounds are excellent models for
many types of biomedical research, particularly those which
require animals from a diverse genetic pool. In addition,
the cost of acquiring pound animals for study is approximately
80 to 90 percent less than that of using dogs and cats specifically
bred for research purposes.
members of the public understand why and how pound animals
are used, it is likely they will support the continuation
of responsible research and educational programs that involve
animals' genetic makeup makes them excellent models for certain
types of research. Generally speaking, pound animals come from
a random genetic pool; that is, they have not come from controlled
in-breeding. Some research in the area of organ and cell transplantation,
for example, requires the use of "randomly outbred" animals.
Randomly outbred dogs, the type most commonly found in pounds,
have widely divergent genetic backgrounds. Their diverse genetic
makeup is analogous to the variations in genetic backgrounds
among humans, especially in the U.S., where immigration and
intermarriage among ethnic and racial groups has produced what
may be termed a randomly outbred population.
cost of a research animal is one of the determining factors
in the choice of a research subject. Because of the limited
dollars available for biomedical research from both public
and private sources, scientists cannot afford to spend more
than is absolutely necessary on the type and number of animals
used in the research project. If researchers could no longer
use pound-source animals, they would have to purchase similar
animals from breeders. The resulting increase in the cost
of research could retard or halt the progress of research
in some vital health areas such as heart disease, simply by
pricing it beyond the reach of many research institutions.
of Pound Animals Used
and cats obtained from pounds for research or education account
for less than two percent of the more than 10 million animals
left in pounds each year. This amounts to some 138,000 dogs
and 50,000 cats. Had they not been purchased by research and
teaching institutions, these animals would have died in pounds.
Only animals that have not been reclaimed by their owners or
have not been adopted are used in research and education.
Pound Animals are Acquired
and other research institutions in Michigan may purchase animals
only from dealers, who must be licensed by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Agriculture, or
they can acquire them directly from the pound.
Pound Animals are Used in Education
animals are used in the education of future veterinarians in
Michigan's veterinary schools, and of future physicians in its
Schools: Most graduates of Michigan's veterinary school enter
small animal practice: that is, the treatment of household
pets. Up to 75 percent of all pound animals used in veterinary
schools help teach these students surgical skills.
Schools: Few pound animals are used in medical education.
Some medical school physiology and pharmacology courses require
a small number of animals for experimentation and demonstration.
In surgical residency programs, a few pound animals are used
in the same manner as described above for veterinary schools.
of Research Where Pound Animals are Used
animals are used for research into the cause, treatment and
prevention of disease in humans and animals. Such research includes
work in cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, arthritis,
lung disorders, orthopedics, birth defects, hearing loss and
current medical and surgical methods for treating heart and
kidney disease have been, and continue to be, developed through
research with dogs. Because the cat's nervous system is the
closest animal system to the human's, cats are frequently
the best animal models for research on the brain and on visual
and auditory function and disease. Cats are also essential
to promising research into improved treatment for stroke victims.
As a part of recent research leading to a vaccine for feline
leukemia, cats played a critical role in the identification
of the virus believed to cause Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS) in humans.
of Animals that Die Each Year in Pounds
In the U.S., more
than 10 million animals are killed annually in pounds and shelters.
In Michigan, the annual figure is about 500,000. Animals are
killed if they are not claimed by their owners or if adoptive
homes cannot be found, because pounds cannot afford to care
for them indefinitely.
of Animal Control
The total annual
cost of pet animal control in the U.S. exceeds $500 million.
Because a heavy financial burden of animal control rests on
state and local government, much of this money, needed to cover
such costs as personnel, facilities, food and euthanasia drugs,
comes directly from citizens' tax dollars.
of Pound Animals Turned in By Owners
Estimates vary greatly.
According to some estimates, approximately 40 percent of these
animals have been delivered to pounds by owners who are unable
to keep them. Others indicate that owners turn in up to 80 percent
of all pound animals.
of Time Animals are Held in Pounds
The minimum holding
period for most healthy animals without an identification
tag in Michigan is four days. For animals wearing an identification
tag the minimum holding period is seven days. This allows
the owner of a lost pet time to reclaim it. The maximum time
an animal can be kept in a pound is determined by considerations
such as available space, daily influx of new animals, the
likelihood of adoption, and the facility's own holding policies.
In some cases, the maximum holding period may extend to two
weeks or more.
of Costs to the
of Pound Animals
and Conditioned) Versus
Purpose Bred Animals
of pound animals varies according to locale; range reflects
degree of conditioning required.
figure is based on cost of eight-month-old purpose-bred beagle:
higher figure is based on cost of eight-month-old hound.
research and educational institutions were forced to acquire
only purpose-bred animals, their costs would rise as much
as 500-1000 percent.
of Pound Animals by NIH Grantees
National Institutes of Health (NIH), the principal public source
of funding for biomedical research in the U.S., does not specify
the origin of animals to be used for the research it funds at
universities and other research institutions. NIH does, in fact,
fund many projects that use pound animals. According to NIH
policy, the decision as to whether or not random-source animals
are needed should be made within the context of the project's
scientific requirements. The NIH reviews each research proposal
for the appropriateness of the animal model to be studied. The
number of animals is also reviewed to ensure that the study
involves no more animals than are necessary.
of Pets for Resale to Research
universities and research institutions acquire animals directly
from pounds or licensed dealers, there is virtually no market
for trade in stolen animals for research purposes. A survey
of police departments and animal control agencies in the 10
largest U.S. cities, conducted by the Foundation for Biomedical
Research*, revealed no reports of thefts of animals for resale
to research for education. When a pet animal is stolen, it is
usually for resale as a pet, guard or hunting dog, or for illegal
gaming activities. Stolen dogs tend to be pure-bred animals,
such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers or Pit Bull Terriers,
which can be sold illegally to private individuals at prices
far higher than those for random-source animals used in research
for Biomedical Research, 818 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite
303 Washington, DC 20006 (202) 457-0654
Permitting the Use of Pound Animals
States currently allow some form of pound animal use for research
and education. Twelve states; Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii,
Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania,
Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia; permit the use of animals
originating from out-of-state pounds, but do not allow pounds
within state borders to release unwanted animals to research
and teaching institutions. In October 1986, Massachusetts prohibited
the use of any pound-delivered animal for research or educational
care is defined in Federal law, regulations and guidelines.
Some states also have laws governing conduct of research with
animals. They set standards and practices for transportation,
housing, cleanliness, diet, veterinary care, and use of anesthetics
care of animals housed by universities, medical schools, hospitals
and research centers is monitored by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA), under the provisions of the Federal Animal
representatives make periodic unannounced inspections to ensure
compliance with standards for housing, feeding and watering,
cleanliness, ventilation and veterinary medical care. The
law contains provisions relating to the use of anesthesia
for potentially painful procedures and/or postoperative care.
It sets penalties for violations, including fines and the
closing of a facility.
Health Service Animal Welfare Policy
U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) maintains an Animal Welfare
Policy that applies to all institutions that receive funds from
the National Institutes of Health for research projects involving
animals. Institutions must implement the recommendations in
the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
guide sets standards for animal care, including housing, cleanliness,
husbandry and veterinary care. It includes directives on the
appropriate use of anesthetics, analgesics and tranquilizers
by the attending veterinarian.
Acceptance of Use of Pound Animals in Research and Education
a public opinion poll conducted by the Survey Research Center,
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 61% of
respondents favored the use of unwanted animals from the pound
for medical research, 16% were neutral and only 23% were against
such use. Similarly, 75% would oppose the passing of a law which
would prevent unclaimed pound animals from being used in medical
research for the public benefit.
is no evidence to support the contention of some critics that
allowing pounds and shelters to release animals for research
discourages people from bringing unwanted animals to the facilities.
State and local bans on sale or donation of pound animals
for research have produced no significant increase in the
number of animals brought in by owners.
prohibition on the use of pound animals for research and education
would A have numerous far-reaching consequences, including the
any event, the projected cost to human and animal life is beyond
there would be a need to breed and rear an additional 138,000
dogs and 50,000 cats each year in the United States solely
for this purpose. These would include 10,000 dogs and cats
in Michigan, bred for research purposes. At a time when
more than 10 million unwanted dogs and cats in the United
States and 500,000 dogs and cats in Michigan are killed
annually in pounds and shelters, such waste is unjustifiable
on ethical, scientific and economic grounds.
the use of pound animals in biomedical research will not
solve the problem of the large number of animals killed
in pounds and shelters. The ban will not only result in
needless animal death, it will also impose a greater burden
on taxpayers to support increased costs of animal control.
In addition, a ban will raise the cost of government-funded
biomedical research and teaching grants, for which funds
are already in short supply. It will create significant
problems for biomedical researchers and veterinary and medical
high cost of acquiring purpose-bred animals to replace pound
dogs and cats may price many research projects out of existence
and curtail crucial areas of professional education. The
result will be to slow the pace of research and the medical
breakthroughs that come from that research. Most important,
as discussed earlier in this pamphlet under "Cost Considerations",
few scientific investigators of academic departments could
support such cost increases. A prohibition against the use
of pound animals would severly impede, or even price out
of existence, many research and educational programs currently
dependent on such animals.
pound animal use would also jeopardize the quality of research.
It takes years to develop scientifically reliable animal
models of individual diseases or to accumulate enough information
on a particular species to design studies likely to yield
data of value in the battle against disease in animals and
is known about the normal and abnormal physiology and metabolism
of the dog, than of any other large mammal. If researchers
were forced to abandon research with dogs, because of a
ban on the use of pound dogs and the prohibitive cost of
purpose-bred animals to replace them, they would have to
turn to other, less well understood species. The time it
will take to acquire the same amount of knowledge about
a new animal model may slow the rate of research and subsequent
medical breakthroughs. In cases where there is no other
scientifically reliable animal model, the amount of research
and biomedical progress will be reduced significantly.