Should Pound Animals Be Used in Research?

About two-thirds of the dogs and most of the cats used in research come from animal shelters and pounds. However, for every dog or cat released for research, pounds and shelters have to kill about 100 animals—at least 10 million dogs and cats every year—that do not find a home.32

Some groups have played on public sentiments by implying that people 's pets will be used in experiments unless laws restricting the use of pound animals in research are passed. But animals are not released for research until enough time has passed to let owners redeem lost pets. Furthermore, people who take animals to pounds usually do not object to the possible use of those animals in research. As with the donation of human organs for transplantation, the general feeling is that using pound animals in research is a way to bring some benefit from an otherwise unfortunate situation.

Nevertheless, several states and communities have restricted the use of animals from pounds, either by requiring that such animals be imported from other states or, in the case of Massachusetts, by forbidding the use of pound animals in any research. If dogs and cats are to be used in research in Massachusetts, they have to be raised by breeders specifically for research. Yet the logic seems perverse: animals will continue to be killed in pounds, and even more animals will be raised for research. As a result of this law, more animals are killed rather than fewer.

What these laws actually do is make animal research more expensive and difficult. Animals raised by breeders cost several hundred dollars apiece, whereas pound animals, about to be put to death, can be obtained for a nominal cost. If all of the animals now obtained from pounds were instead acquired from breeders, the additional cost would be tens of millions of dollars. Without additional funding, this expense would inevitably curtail valuable research.



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SCIENCE, MEDICINE, AND ANIMALS Should Pound Animals Be Used in Research? About two-thirds of the dogs and most of the cats used in research come from animal shelters and pounds. However, for every dog or cat released for research, pounds and shelters have to kill about 100 animals—at least 10 million dogs and cats every year—that do not find a home.32 Some groups have played on public sentiments by implying that people 's pets will be used in experiments unless laws restricting the use of pound animals in research are passed. But animals are not released for research until enough time has passed to let owners redeem lost pets. Furthermore, people who take animals to pounds usually do not object to the possible use of those animals in research. As with the donation of human organs for transplantation, the general feeling is that using pound animals in research is a way to bring some benefit from an otherwise unfortunate situation. Nevertheless, several states and communities have restricted the use of animals from pounds, either by requiring that such animals be imported from other states or, in the case of Massachusetts, by forbidding the use of pound animals in any research. If dogs and cats are to be used in research in Massachusetts, they have to be raised by breeders specifically for research. Yet the logic seems perverse: animals will continue to be killed in pounds, and even more animals will be raised for research. As a result of this law, more animals are killed rather than fewer. What these laws actually do is make animal research more expensive and difficult. Animals raised by breeders cost several hundred dollars apiece, whereas pound animals, about to be put to death, can be obtained for a nominal cost. If all of the animals now obtained from pounds were instead acquired from breeders, the additional cost would be tens of millions of dollars. Without additional funding, this expense would inevitably curtail valuable research.