THE USE OF POUND/SHELTER ANIMALS IN RESEARCH & EDUCATION
Although pound-derived dogs and cats comprise only a tiny percentage of all animals used in biomedical research and education programs in the U.S., they are critically important to those programs, for both scientific and economic reasons. Approximately 1 percent of the 10.1 to 16.7 million unwanted animals that otherwise would be put to death in pounds and shelters each year are released for research on health problems such as heart and kidney disease, brain injury, stroke, blindness and deafness, and for the education of future veterinarians and physicians.
The abandoned pound animals used for research and education are not people's pets. They are unwanted animals whose owners have not claimed them or for which adoptive homes cannot be found. Research and educational institutions acquire them either directly from pounds or through dealers licensed and regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dogs and cats from pounds are excellent models for many types of biomedical research, particularly those which require animals from a diverse genetic pool. In addition, the cost of acquiring dogs and cats specifically bred for research purposes can be ten times as high as the cost of acquiring pound/shelter animals.
Banning the use of pound animals in biomedical research will not solve the problem of reducing the number of animals killed in pounds and shelters. However, it will create significant problems for biomedical researchers and veterinary and medical schools.
The high cost of acquiring purpose-bred animals to replace pound dogs and cats may price many research projects out of existence; some areas of professional education may be curtailed. The result would be to slow the pace of research and the medical breakthroughs that come from that research.
If members of the public understand why and how pound animals are used, it is likely that they will support the continuation of responsible research and educational programs that involve pound animals. For the price of a ban is enormous: dogs and cats will not benefit, and human victims of disease will suffer.
Copyright 1991 NABR
National Association for Biomedical Research 818
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