The use of animals from pounds and shelters in laboratories has been a controversial
issue in the animal advocacy and research communities since the late 1800s.
After World War II, as the use of animals in research began to boom and
the biomedical research community acquired more power, laboratories and
schools began to scramble to obtain animals to use as research, testing,
and teaching subjects. Scientists turned first to pounds and shelters, which
were places full of 'surplus' animals who could be acquired cheaply. The
argument was made, and continues to be made today, that these animals are
unwanted and are going to be euthanized anyway. Therefore, in the scientists'
minds, their use in biomedical research was not only justified, but was
also essential for the progress of modern medicine and increasing commercialization
of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, household products, etc.
Beginning in the 1940s, laws were passed that required pounds and shelters
to release dogs and cats to research laboratories. The majority of laws
regarding animals in laboratories passed between 1945 and 1960 were generated
by the National Society for Medical Research, which eventually evolved
into the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR).
Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York were among the first states that enacted
laws requiring the release of animals in shelters or pounds to dealers.
Though these laws were enacted in the 1940s and 1950s, some of them still
exist today. Others have been repealed or amended, as a result of demands
of the animal protection community.
You can look up the laws on pound seizure for your own state.
In 1965, New York Congressman Joseph Y. Resnick introduced a federal bill
in response to the story of Pepper, a Dalmatian who was stolen, sold to
a research facility, and killed. This incident, along with a 1966 Life
Magazine exposé entitled "Concentration Camps for Dogs,"
played an important role in the creation of the 1966 Laboratory Animal
Welfare Act, now known as the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This was the first
piece of federal legislation in the U.S. that established humane standards
for the care, transport, and acquisition of animals used in laboratories,
and it also required the regulation of dealers who sold animals to research
institutions. In 1990, the Act was amended to define a minimum holding
period (five days) for animals in shelters or pounds who are to be sold
to research facilities. It specifies that this time will allow their 'owner'
to claim them or give them an opportunity to be adopted. The amendment
also established record keeping requirements for dealers who obtain companion
animals from these sources.
Three states still require pound seizure of publicly–funded shelters and pounds—Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah.