Pets in Research

Every year thousands of dogs and cats are purchased by research facilities from municipal pounds and used for experimental purposes. They are subjected to a life of pain and suffering and eventually killed. Between 2002 and 2011, 3,639 lost or abandoned dogs and 3,824 lost or abandoned cats were sent from municipal pounds in Ontario to research laboratories. According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care, 5,892 cats and 10,096 dogs were sold from pounds to research laboratories across Canada in 2013, the most recent available statistics.

Pound seizure is the sale or release of dogs and cats from pounds or shelters to research, testing, or educational laboratories. The Ontario Animals For Research Act makes this practice the law. Ontario is now the only province, in all of Canada, where pound seizure is mandated.  Scroll down to learn more about pound seizure.

Ontario and Quebec are the largest users of dogs and cats for experimental purposes. Please help us amend the Animals for Research Act to ban the use of lost pets from Ontario municipal pounds and shelters from animal experimentation and to ban the import of lost, stray or abandoned pets for experimentation from Quebec and other provinces in Canada.

How You Can Help

1. Adopt or foster an animal:  ProjectJessie.ca

Each year we help rehome hundreds of animals that would otherwise be at risk of being sent to research. While this is simply a bandaid measure, we continue to rescue these animals until we are able to provide legislative protection.

2.  Know the laws and protect your pets
  • Make sure that your pets wear identification and that their microchip information is current.
  • Know where lost pets are sheltered in your community and how long you have to reclaim them before they are put up for adoption, sold to research or euthanized.
3. Contact the Premiers and speak out!

We need to keep the pressure on the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, and the Honourable Philippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec, to bring in legislation banning the use of lost pets in research. So please, mail and call them. Hand-written letters are best but you can also click here to print our sign-on letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1

T/ 416-325-1941
F/ 416-325-9895

Email: kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Honourable Philippe Couillard
Province de Québec
Conseil Exécutif, Édifice Honoré Mercier
835, boul. René-Lévesque est, 3e étage,
Québec, QC G1A 1B4

T/ 418-643-5321
F/ 418-643-3924

Email: Philippe.Couillard@plq.org

4.  Learn more

Pound seizure is a term commonly used to describe the practice of using lost, homeless and abandoned dogs and cats from animal control facilities or pounds for use in experimentation (research, teaching and testing).

Our opposition to pound seizure is shared by all Canadian humane societies and animal protection organizations throughout Canada. Ontario is the only province left in Canada where pound seizure is the law. Quebec remains one of the few jurisdictions that remains silent on the issue of pound contractors supplying lost pet animals to research in the absence of any legal requirement to do so.

Indeed, there are municipalities in Ontario that choose to disregard provincial laws that require them to surrender animals to research facilities because they are aware of the serious problems caused by pound seizure. In other provinces where the law is silent on the issue of pound seizure but where researchers seek out lost pets, municipalities can refuse to supply those pets for experimental purposes.

Because researchers exploit the availability of animals in pounds and shelters, there must be strong protection for these vulnerable animals. Many municipalities, like Toronto, Brampton, Clarington, Winnipeg and Calgary do not release animals to researchers. Some, like Toronto, Mississauga and Richmond, BC have gone one step further and have banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores as a way to reduce the number of homeless animals. Pet store purchases simply add to the number of animals dumped at municipal pounds and shelters. These animals are at risk of being subjected to cruel experimentation if they end up in municipal pounds and shelters that sell to research laboratories.

Despite this growing movement, Canadian research facilities still “seize” lost and homeless pets from shelters for use in experimentation.  According to the 2013 statistics from the Canadian Council on Animal Care, of the 6,833 cats used in experiments, 5,892 came from pounds, a staggering 86%. For the same year, 10,096 or 69%% of the 14,685 dogs came from pounds. (www.ccac.ca)

For sound scientific, economic, and moral reasons, many researchers, research facilities, and medical schools in North America and Europe do not experiment on animals acquired from pounds – so-called “random source” animals. In some cases these respected institutions are acting voluntarily; others are simply obeying the law.

Based on our years of working closely with people staffing pounds and shelters, we can testify that shelter personnel are deeply troubled by sending animals to research. Most find it difficult even euthanizing animals, but they can morally justify it with the knowledge that they did their best to find the animal a new home, and that the animal’s end will be gentle and humane. When animals are sold to research facilities, however, they are utterly abandoned to an undeserved and uncertain fate. And, despite the calm assertions of researchers, shelter workers know there is no guarantee that the animals will not suffer in cruel, chronic experiments. No one should underestimate the insidious and debilitating effect that sending animals to research can have on caring persons who work in shelters. Some cope with the cumulative emotional effects by resigning. Others become inured to the suffering, often to the detriment of their own emotional well-being, and to the compassion and dedication that their job demands. In the end, the animals suffer – animals whose only crime was being homeless or lost.

The evidence against pound seizure is compelling and unequivocal. The damage pound seizure causes to municipal efforts to provide effective animal services is well-documented, as is the improvement in animal services when pound seizure is banned. The evidence that some researchers use to defend pound seizure is dubious and misleading at best; self-serving and knowingly wrong at worst. There is no evidence that banning pound seizure has any negative impact on medical research or, in any way, puts human health at risk.

Politically, silence on pound seizure is an abrogation of the responsibilities that municipal politicians have to the more than 50% of their voters who share their homes with companion animals – particularly so because, in all cases, the decision to permit pound seizure is based either on a bias against compassion for animals and the organizations that protect them or faulty and incomplete analyses of the issue.

We worked with animal protection organizations across the country to stop the use of lost pets in research teaching and testing.  With Ontario and Quebec as the largest users of pet dogs and cats, we continue to work for province wide bans against the practice.

We prepared a document entitled The Political, Animal Services, and Scientific Case Against Pound Seizure regarding the arguments against pound seizure and how such practices stop the implementation of progressive animal services programmes. To find out about animals in your area, you can mail your municipality a Freedom of Information request – a sample letter is available by clicking here. Also available for download is a document regarding teaching alternatives for veterinary students.