Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Lost Pets Used in Research


by Vicki Van Linden
Director, Animal Alliance of Canada

What if your dog or cat became lost?

What if you could not locate your animal family member, in spite of your best efforts?

What would your hopes be for your lost animal friend?

You would likely hope that a kind person would keep your friend until he or she was returned to you.

If fate is not so kind and your friend is never returned to you, you likely hope that your beloved companion would find another loving home. And, when companion animals like dogs and cats are lucky, that was what happens.

Not all dogs and cats are so lucky.

For some lost, stray or abandoned dogs and cats, a fate that violates all of our protective values is in store for them. Some of them will be purchased by research laboratories where they will be subjected to experimentation in ways that will cause them pain, fear and distress. This actually takes place all across Canada. It is referred to as pound seizure or pound release, the practice of taking lost, homeless and abandoned dogs and cats from animal control facilities or pounds for use in experimentation (research, teaching and testing).

Every province allows dogs and cats from municipally-funded or contracted animal pounds/shelters to be turned over to research facilities.  Ontario is sadly unique in that the practice is actually mandated under the ‘Animals for Research Act.’  This means that if a research facility choses to do so, they could actually demand that animals from a municipally-funded animal shelter/pound be turned over for their use, even if the shelter workers do not wish to comply.

The story of a dog named Royal, and the family who loved him, is a stark illustration of the horror of Pound Seizure.

Royal was a 13-year-old Golden Retriever who was much loved, and had lived with his guardian since he was a pup. One day Royal wandered away from his property. But Royal was found by people who wanted to help him so they brought him to the Arteeka Canine Control facility, the animal control pound/shelter contracted for that area. They liked Royal so much that they stated they would like to adopt him if his family did not claim him.

Royal was tattooed and wore a collar with his name embroidered on it, and his dog tags were attached.

In spite of all of this evidence that Royal was a loved family pet, and in spite of there being a ready adoptive home for him, Royal was quickly sold to the University of Guelph for use in research. The Arteeka Canine Control facility actually violated the Act by turning Royal over before the full 4 day holding period required by law had expired.

Royal was quickly deemed to be unsuitable for research, likely due to his age, and was killed at the University of Guelph.

Then, as a further indignity, the Ministry responsible for the University had to be forced to confirm to Royal’s loving guardian, Laurie Bishop, that the dog she had loved since he was a pup had been killed at their facility.

Royal died alone.  The pound keeper did not look out for Royal. Nor did the University of Guelph. Royal was nothing more than a potential test subject. And, Royal could be your dog.

There is good news from this sad story.  Today the vast majority of shelters in Ontario have stood against this practice so animals are not going to research from those facilities.  Still, there are pounds, especially in smaller communities, that still hand over animals for research. The dogs and cats that are desirable to researchers are those who are docile, in other words, are adoptable as pets. All lost, stray or abandoned pets deserve to have every effort made to find them a loving adoptive home – not sent to a life of suffering, fear and death in a laboratory. We believe that no lost dog or cat should ever be used as research subjects. This is the ultimate betrayal of a lost friend.

For these reasons, we ask all Ontarians to help us bring an end to POUND SEIZURE in Ontario – the ultimate betrayal of a lost dog or cat - by banning the use of lost pets in research.

We urge Ontario citizens to download and mail a sign-on letter addressed to Premier Kathleen Wynne by clicking here.  Or better yet, write a letter in your own words.

Ask the Premier of Ontario to amend the Animals for Research Act to:
1)  ban the release of lost, stray or abandoned dogs and cats from Ontario pounds for animal experimentation; and
2)  to ban the import of lost, stay or abandoned pets for experimentation from other provinces in Canada.

Canadian citizens in other provinces can also protect companion animals by contacting their own Premiers to ask that the surrender of lost, stray or abandoned dogs and cats from pounds and shelters be banned.

Research facilities in all provinces should also ban the importation of former pets from other jurisdictions.