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Pound seizure is the ability of a research or educational institution to take animals from municipal or county pounds and shelters to use for experimentation, vivisection or dissection. The decision to take these animals is generally at the discretion of the researchers, although they are obligated to observe any mandatory waiting period before taking any individual animal from the shelter.
Pound seizure is a practice that compromises shelter integrity, threatens the wellbeing of shelter animals and gives research institutions license to take animals without having to justify the cost.
Laws vary from state to state and county to county across the U.S., and in those communities which allow pound seizure, homeless strays can be carted off to the local laboratory, research center or university. These tragic canine and feline victims are often lost companion animals, as well as ones who have been picked up by “bunchers,” who roam the streets looking for stray animals to collect and sell for a profit.
In some states—or in certain counties—the decision to sell unclaimed animals for research is optional, leaving it to the discretion of the animal care facility. When animal care facilities do sell their animals for research, it undermines any effort to aggressively encourage adoption since there is already a market for the unclaimed pets. In fact, many times a researcher will request a certain breed or size of animal, giving the animal care facility even less incentive to try to place those animals back with their own families or with a new one.
Many states—and individual counties and cities—have abandoned this practice altogether, specifically prohibiting the sale or donation of unclaimed animals to any research institution or school. In Michigan, for example, the decision on this issue is left to the counties and most counties have ruled against allowing shelters to sell their dogs for research, but not all counties are onboard with this policy, even after numerous advocacy efforts.
Here is a summary of current law.
States prohibiting pound seizure:
California (No statewide law; however, every county has banned pound seizure.)
District of Columbia
States that allow individual counties/municipalities/shelters to determine policy on pound seizure:
States that mandate that licensed researchers can take animals:
Minnesota (five day holding period)
Oklahoma (15 days without license, 30 with license)
If you live in one of the states that still permits or mandates pound seizure and would like to see that changed, please go to the Animal Law Resource Center to find a model law which you can download and submit to your state legislator to introduce in your state.