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Pound Seizure: Victory!

Published 09/30/06
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 37 Number 3, Fall 2006

API is pleased to report that our efforts to end the cruel practice of pound seizure have met with success in Sacramento County, California!

As readers may know, pound seizure is the abhorrent practice of selling or releasing animals from shelters to research, testing, or training facilities. In communities across the country, dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens may be quietly slipped out the back doors of animal shelters and sent to universities and research or training facilities. California has no current state law regulating or prohibiting pound seizure; Sacramento was the only county in the state to engage in pound seizure. Advocates had been working to end pound seizure in the county since the 1980s.

A Long Legal Road

In a previous Animal Issues, we reported that in 2003, API had entered a lawsuit, along with Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and In Defense of Animals, to stop the practice of pound seizure in Sacramento County.

Our lawsuit argued that Sacramento County failed to enforce a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreement with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and Sutter Hospital safeguarding companion animals sold from its shelter for medical and educational uses. These two facilities were the only ones purchasing animals from the shelter for use in research and training. The agreement was supposed to require that accurate records be kept about companion animals sold from its shelter, and that these animals not be used in duplicative procedures or be subjected to avoidable stress. The case was dismissed on technical grounds.

We then appealed — unsuccessfully. The Third Appellate District Court of Appeal decided that the county has discretion about whether to terminate the practice of selling animals from its shelter to research labs that signed a MOU agreement with the county, despite repeated violations of the contract regarding animal use. Essentially, the decision granted discretion to county animal control about whether to continue or terminate the MOU agreements with UC Davis and Sutter and that the failure to comply with these agreements over the past 20 years was irrelevant.

Persevering for Animals

After these unfavorable court rulings, API and other animal advocates switched the focus of their efforts to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, who had the power to renew the MOU agreements — and, therefore, the power to decide whether pound seizure would continue in the county. API mobilized members to write to their supervisor and to speak out on behalf of animals in the shelter.

We are pleased to report that in August 2006 the Board of Supervisors voted to end the sale of animals impounded at the county shelter to research facilities. Now, under a new agreement approved by the supervisors, UC Davis veterinary students will use animals from the shelter only in procedures that will benefit the animals. Sutter Medical Research Foundation — which was using kittens for intubation training and dogs for various research projects — will no longer have access to animals from Sacramento County’s shelter.

Although the victory was a long time coming, it goes to show that patience and perseverance can lead to greater protection for animals. Thanks to all of our members and supporters and to the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights who spoke out against pound seizure in Sacramento. Your voice helped save animals!

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