Unclaimed dogs and cats generally leave an animal control facility one of two ways: adoption or euthanization. But in states allowing â€œpound seizure,â€ some animals might exit to laboratories instead.
Although at least 13 states have banned this practice, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah still have pound seizure laws in place, according to this 2006 article from the Animal Law Coalition community on the Best Friends Network. Pound seizure laws require the release of animals to certain types of research or educational facilities on request. States which prohibit release of shelter cats and dogs to research and testing facilities are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.
Although my state, Illinois, is not listed as a state with an official ban, Section 11 of our Animal Control Act specifies animals not adopted or released to a humane society or rescue group will be euthanized.
After contact has been made or attempted, dogs or cats deemed adoptable by the animal control facility shall be offered for adoption, or made available to a licensed humane society or rescue group. If no placement is available, it shall be humanely dispatched pursuant to the Humane Euthanasia in Animal Shelters Act.
Some states leave pound seizure decisions to municipalities, or allow pound seizure without requiring it. For example, Wisconsin 174.13 includes the following text:
Any officer or pound which has custody of an unclaimed dog may release the dog to the University of Wisconsin System, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Inc., or to any other educational institution of higher learning chartered under the laws of the state and accredited to the University of Wisconsin System, upon requisition by the institution. The requisition shall be in writing, shall bear the signature of an authorized agent, and shall state that the dog is requisitioned for scientific or educational purposes. If a requisition is made for a greater number of dogs than is available at a given time, the officer or pound may supply those immediately available and may withhold from other disposition all unclaimed dogs coming into the officerâ€™s or poundâ€™s custody until the requisition is fully discharged, excluding impounded dogs as to which ownership is established within a reasonable period.
Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine presents a variety of arguments against pound seizure. The unknown medical history of shelter animals could affect the results of experiments, and pound seizure may negatively impact public confidence, perhaps increasing the number of animals left on the street rather than in shelters. Barnard also mentions a â€œtrendâ€¦for medical schools to move away from the use of animals in education.â€
A discussion on the ethics and parameters surrounding the use of laboratory animals is beyond the scope of this entry â€“- and the pound seizure issue. Pound seizure discussions focus on how such animals are acquired. However, in my search for a resource for readers curious about the laws in their states, I believe this to be the most comprehensive: the Ban Pound Seizure site, operated by the American Anti-Vivisection Society.