no safe place Few people know that public pounds are a cheap source of dogs ($6 apiece!) for research labs. In Ontario, pounds have to hold the dogs for three days, and then they can sell the stray pets to labs that use them for experiments. If there is an order from a laboratory, the pound is required by law, after the three-day waiting period, to provide the animals ordered to the laboratories rather than euthanize or continue to hold them. The process is called Pound Seizure.

There is a bill before the Canadian Senate that will finally put some teeth into Canada’s pathetic animal cruelty laws. Under present law, animals are treated as ‘property’, and there are virtually no restrictions on what people can do with their ‘property’, including abuse. Small fines provide no disincentive to Canada’s horrific and booming puppy mill industry, and even the severest abusers cannot be given jail sentences or prohibited from owning animals in future. CBC Television’s Disclosure public affairs program, in a report called No Safe Place, looked at the proposed new law and was surprised to find that the body responsible for monitoring treatment of laboratory animals was opposing it. This body, a ‘self-regulatory’ group set up by the research labs, has no teeth to punish its members, cannot under its charter reveal its findings to non-members or the public, and has only enough resources to inspect each lab every 4-5 years. It is the only group ‘protecting’ laboratory animals from unimaginably horrific treatment in labs that are off-limits to the public, and whose very existence and location are often kept secret ‘to prevent interference from extreme animal-rights organizations.’

Disclosure‘s investigations led to their discovery of the Pound Seizure rule shown in italics above. The link above takes you to a story of a lost family pet that was caught by this rule and euthanized by the lab because it was ‘unsuitable’ for experiments. It also contains the CBC’s usual thorough on-line backgrounders for its investigative programs, and a rich set of resources for more information. But it contains no recommendations for action. So rather than just seething about this, I thought I would offer some:

  1.  If you are a Canadian, please write, e-mail or phone your Member of Parliament and the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to urge them to support quick passage of Bill C-10b (formerly Bill C-15b) intact. If you get a response attempting to justify some proposed amendments to the bill, explain that you can support amendments that would explicitly define what constitutes ‘unnecessary’, ‘brutal’, ‘suitable’ and ‘adequate’ treatment of animals, but that you cannot support (a) leaving the definition of these terms to the discretion of some regulatory body, or (b) exemption of any industry or group from the provisions of this legislation. The language and scope of this law is very modest, and laboratories, breeders, and farmers need not fear prosecution under this legislation unless they are doing something really heinous.
  2. No matter where you live, find out what the local pound seizure, laboratory/breeder/farm inspection and animal cruelty laws are, and lobby to have the laws toughened and enforcement properly funded.
  3. Pound seizure dogs cost $6. ‘Purpose-bred’ dogs (a euphemism for dogs specifically bred for lifelong lab experimentation) cost up to $600. In some jurisdictions individual pounds are allowed to adopt a policy refusing to sell animals for experimentation. No matter where you live, call your local pound and find out if they have such a policy, and what the ‘waiting period’ is for euthanizing or selling animals. Lobby to get such policies implemented and waiting periods extended. Support local rescue organizations that take in dogs from pounds before they can be sold to laboratories or euthanized. Don’t let your own pet run loose, and have him/her neutered. Don’t buy a pet from a pet store – rescue one from the pound instead. (They make great, and grateful pets: Read about ours .)
  4. Whenever you have a choice, buy only products that specifically state on the label that animals were not used to test them.
  5. Althougn raising the cost of lab animals should help reduce the most frivolous use of animals for experimentation, it will not be enough to eliminate it. Biologists from many disciplines have gone on record as saying that animal experimentation is not necessary for effective research or veterinary training, and that it continues because there is no legal or economic incentive to develop or use alternative testing and training methods. Work with your local humane organizations to urge your legislators to enact laws that put a ‘sunset date’ after which animal testing, experimentation and unnecessary treatment during veterinary training will be legally prohibited. These guys have the money and resources to develop alternatives (in many cases they already exist, but are more expensive). All they need is motivation.

In a civilized and humane society, animal cruelty is a disgrace. Let’s do and spend what it takes to develop alternatives quickly, and then stop it.

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