UT Gov Signs Bill Ending Mandatory Pound Seizure!

shelter cat

Update Mar. 29: Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert has now signed H.B. 107 into law! H.B. 107 means pound seizure discretionary instead of mandatory for Utah public shelters.

That means only two states, Minnesota and Oklahoma, still require pound seizure, the practice of requiring public shelters to sell or provide animals for research.

The new law also strengthens requirements that public shelters  search for owners of lost animals and find homes for animals. 

Under H.B. 107 a local government now has the discretion to decide not to send animals to be used for research or "educational purposes". The new law also prohibits making an animal available to be used for research or educational purposes unless: (1)  the animal has been legally impounded for at least five days; (2) the animal has not been claimed or redeemed; and (3) the animal shelter has made a reasonable effort to find the rightful owner of the animal or to make it available to others.

The new law basically redefines "reasonable efforts" to find the owner to include looking for micro-chips and tags on the animal. 

Significantly, the law provides that an animal cannot be used for research or educational purposes if the surrendering owner signs a statement prohibiting use of the animal in that way.

Update Mar. 3, 2010: The Senate as well as the House have now passed Utah bill, H.B. 107, which would make pound seizure discretionary instead of mandatory for Utah public shelters and also improve laws requiring public shelters to search for owners and find homes for animals. 

Update Feb. 22, 2010: The bill that would basically make pound seizure discretionary instead of mandatory for public shelters in Utah, H.B. 107, has passed the Utah House of Representatives by a vote of 71-3!

For more on this bill, read Animal Law Coalition’s reports below.

Update February 17, 2010: H.B. 107, introduced by Utah state Rep. Jennifer Seelig, has passed the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee! The vote was 12-2.

Basically, this bill attempts to limit pound seizure which is the policy of providing shelter animals for research, experiments, testing, or "educational purposes". Utah law currently requires public shelters to make animals available for these uses. 

Under H.B. 107 a local government would have the discretion to decide not to send animals to be used for research or "educational purposes". The bill would also prohibit making an animal available to be used for research or educational purposes unless: (1)  the animal has been legally impounded for at least five days; (2) the animal has not been claimed or redeemed; and (3)the animal shelter has made a reasonable effort to find the rightful owner of the animal or to make it available to others.

An amendment to the bill that was accepted by the Committee basically defined "reasonable efforts" to find the owner to include looking for micro-chips and tags on the animal. 

Significantly, the bill provides that an animal could not be used for research or educational purposes if the surrendering owner signs a statement prohibiting use of the animal in that way.

Montcalm County Votes to Stop Pound Seizure

Cat in shelter

Update April 28: The Montcalm County, Michigan Commissioners have voted to stop giving shelter animals to R&R Research, a Class B dealer that sells them for experimentation and research!

This practice of giving or selling shelter animals to be used for experiments or research is called pound seizure.  Also, go here to read about the bill pending in the Michigan legislature to ban pound seizure and contracts like this one in Montcalm County.  

Update April 17: On April 27 Montcalm County Commissioners will decide whether they should continue to provide shelter animals to R&R Research, a Class B dealer, that then sells them for experimentation and testing. 

The County has met before to discuss this issue and opted to "study" it. 

Update Jan. 27, 2009: The Montcalm County Commissioners decided to appoint a committee to study whether the county should continue to provide shelter animals to R&R Research, a Class B dealer, that sells them for experimentation and testing.

The committee met yesterday and discussed the matter before a standing room only crowd. 

The commissioners also decided to continue the contract with R&R Research for 6 months while the matter is under study.

There is really nothing to study here. It’s a matter of choosing adoptions and spay/neuter programs and education about  responsible pet ownership over shipping all animals off to become subjects of painful experiments and tests.  That’s the choice.

For more information, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.  

Original report: Shelter catsWe need your help to try to stop shelter animals in Montcalm County, Michigan from going to R&R Research where they are then sold for medical experiments and testing. Or worse.

On January 26, 2009 the Montcalm County Commissioners will decide if the county will continue its contract with R&R Research. Please write or call the commissioners and urge them to end this contract with R&R Research.

Here is why:

R&R Research is a USDA Class B dealer.  Class B dealers are basically those who buy, sell and transport animals for "research… testing, experimentation, exhibition, or for use as a pet; or any dog at the wholesale level for hunting, security, or breeding purposes". Class B dealers are theoretically regulated under the Animal Welfare Act, 9 C.F.R. 1.1 et seq.

Some have been accused of taking pets which are stolen or obtained from "random sources", keeping them in horrific conditions and then selling them for medical research or experiments. For example, unscrupulous Class B dealers often answer ads in the newspaper that offer animals "free to a good home". They will steal pets off the streets. Laboratories will pay $250-$350 per animal.

R&R Research found a way to minimize the cost and maximize the profit in finding animals for research and experimentation.  As a Class B dealer, R&R Research has obtained animals from the Montcalm County, Michigan shelter free of charge.  USDA records reveal R & R Research sold 592 animals in 2004 with gross revenues of $99,723. In 2005 R & R Research made $179,115 on the sale of 611 animals. R&R Research earned even more in 2006, $196,272 based on sales of 621 dogs and cats.  Over the years R&R Research makes an average of $311 on each animal provided by the county shelter.

Montcalm County even has a policy that rescues are denied access to impounded animals for one day after they become available for adoption.

In fact, this past December Jim Woudenberg, owner of R&R Research complained to Montcalm County Animal Control about "the problem of rescues" requesting the return of animals released to research.  He means released to his misnamed company which sells the animals for research and experimentation or simply kills them.

Woudenberg asked for confirmation that no such requests would be accepted except from the original owner. He asked that rescues be made aware of this.  At the same time the County stopped releasing any information by telephone about the disposition of animals.  

Rescues and the public have long complained that the county never contacts rescues about animals available for adoption or makes any real effort to find homes for them. They are for the most part given to R&R Research which brings in substantial revenues by then selling these poor animals for research or experiments.  And how knows what else this outfit does with them.

The USDA cited R&R Research once for advertising as an animal shelter where people could surrender animals. It was cited another time for taking stray animals off the streets. There have been other violations and reports over the years of gross cruelty to animals.

This is a sleazy Class B dealer that has been getting animals from the county shelter for 30  years. It’s time for the county to put an end to this contract and start finding homes for these animals and encouraging spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership.

Few shelters sell or give animals for research or experimentation.  Let’s take Montcalm County off the list. There is no reason to use animals this way. It’s an outmoded, cruel practice.  Write or call the county commissioners and politely but firmly tell them it is time to stop this practice of giving homeless animals away for research or experimentation; it’s time to stop the cruelty.   

A Call For An End to Pound Seizure Laws

Pound seizure laws typically require shelters or pounds to release animals to testing, research or educational facilities on demand.

These laws were first passed in the 1940s. Most of these laws were promoted by the National Society for Medical Research, which eventually evolved into the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). Under these laws animals that are not claimed by an owner within a period of days must be turned over to facilities that use animals for testing, research or education. These animals who at one time lived in a home are now locked in cages and tortured in the name of medical science or education. Animals subjected to tests or experiments suffer terribly and die agonizing deaths.

It is no longer the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s. Using animals for testing or research or even education is fast becoming a thing of the past. Pound seizure laws should be relics of a bygone era. Indeed, thirteen states have banned pound seizure: Connecticut, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22-332a; Delaware, 3 Del. C. § 8001; Hawaii, HRS § 143-18; Maine, 17 M.R.S. §1025; Maryland, Md. Ann. Code art. 27, § 67B; Massachusetts, Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 140, § 151, 174D; New Hampshire, RSA 437:22; New Jersey, N.J. Stat. § 4:19-15.16; New York, NY CLS Agr & M § 374; Pennsylvania, 3 P.S. § 459-302; Rhode Island, R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-19-12; Vermont, 13 V.S.A. § 352; and West Virginia, W. Va. Code § 19-20-23.

New York, Maryland, and West Virginia prohibit release of cats and dogs to testing and research facilities while the other ten states ban the release of all animals to such places.

There is still no federal law, though, concerning pound seizures.

Several states and Washington, D.C. continue to allow the release of animals to testing, research and educational facilities. Arizona, A.R.S. § 11-1013; California, Cal Civ Code § 1834.5-1834.7; Colorado, C.R.S. 35-42.5-101; Iowa, Code §145B.2-.6; Michigan, MCLS § 287.389 (Though Jackson County, Michigan has banned pound seizure.) Ohio, ORC Ann. 955.16; South Dakota, § 40-1-34, § 34-14-8; Tennessee, § 44-17-112, Virginia, §§ 3.1-796.96 96.1, 96.105; Wisconsin, § 174.13.

The remaining states leave the decision about whether to allow pound seizure to the counties and municipalities. And in the past selling animals to testing or research facilities has been a way for some local shelters or pounds to raise money.

There are 3 states that still have pound seizure laws: Minnesota, § 35.71, Utah § 26-26-3, and Oklahoma. 4 Okl. St. §§ 394, 501.

As an example, here is Utah’s pound seizure law: § 26-26-3. Period of impoundment and effort to find owner prerequisite to delivery of animals to institution by governing body of county or municipality — Owner’s prerogative regarding provision of animal to an institution The governing body of the county or municipality in which an establishment is located shall make available to an authorized institution as many impounded animals in that establishment as the institution may request; provided, however, that such animals shall have been legally impounded at least five days or for such other minimum period as may be specified by municipal ordinance, and remain unclaimed and unredeemed by their owners or by any other person entitled to do so. The establishment shall first make a reasonable effort to find the rightful owner of such animal, and if the owner is not found, shall make a reasonable effort to make the animal available to others during the impound period. Owners of animals who voluntarily provide their animals to an establishment may, by signature, determine whether or not the animal may be provided to an institution or used for research or educational purposes.

Pound seizure is illegal in Denmark, England, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Animal Law Coalition calls for the repeal of pound seizure laws in Utah, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. We urge states which allow pound seizure to pass laws banning this practice.

Laws Relating to Animal Research

More than 85% of medical schools no longer use live animals for research. 90% or more of schools no longer use live animals in teaching courses such as physiology. Top medical schools such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania have not used live animals in this way for years.

In the United States it is not illegal to experiment on animals. Facilities that experiment on animals for research, testing or education are generally regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. §2131 et seq. which is enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also involved in regulating the care and use of laboratory animals under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as implemented by the Good Laboratory Practice Regulations (21 CFR Part 58).

And, the National Institutes of Health, The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), Office of Extramural Research, are responsible for the implementation and general administration of the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy). The PHS Policy implements the Health Research Extension Act of 1985.

Pursuant to a Memo of Understanding these agencies theoretically share concerns, coordinate inspections or evaluations of research facilities and cooperate on the development and interpretation of policies and standards.

For all of this regulation, there is little oversight and few regulations for facilities that use animals in research, testing or education. Basically, the Animal Welfare Act relies on self-regulation through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (“IACUC”) system. 7 USCS § 2143(b); 9 CFR 2.31

Under this system each facility must organize an IACUC which is then responsible for licensing, registration, approval of protocols for the use of animals in research, testing or education, and compliance with applicable regulations. The IACUC is required to issue an annual report about the use of animals in research, testing or education at the facility. 9 CFR 2.31-2.38.

A 2005 audit report by the USDA inspector general found that IACUCs are not consistent in regulating the facility and do not consistently apply the law, especially in cases involving animal pain and distress.

75% of Americans oppose animal research that causes severe pain and distress.

There are only minimal standards for the care and treatment of animals caught in this cruel and arcane practice of experimenting on live animals. Basically, the facility is required to consider alternatives to any procedure likely to produce pain to or distress in an experimental animals. Also, facilities must try to reduce an animal’s pain and distress and withhold tranquilizers, anesthesia or euthanasia when scientifically necessary for only the necessary period of time. Animals are not to be use in more than one major operative experiment except in cases of scientific necessity or other special circumstances. 7 USC §2143. See further 9 CFR §§2.32, 2.38.

The truth is there are thousands of dogs, cats and other animals trapped in archaic animal research facilities. The numbers are staggering. Go here for some of the annual reports of research facilities.

Find inspection reports here.