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For Immediate Release: 03/24/04

Sacramento County Sued Over Illegal Sale of Shelter Animals

Sacramento, CA — Animal protection groups filed a lawsuit today against Sacramento County for failing to enforce an agreement with the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and Sutter Hospital safeguarding companion animals sold from its shelter for medical and educational uses. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR), the Animal Protection Institute (API), and In Defense of Animals (IDA).

“Sacramento is the only county in all of California which still allows people’s pets to be sold into research,” says API Chief Executive Officer Michelle Thew. “Sutter Hospital and UC Davis have both knowingly and willingly violated the agreement with the county, and have done so for years without the county doing anything about it. In short, the county has lost track of the companion cats and dogs it has sold, and violated the public trust,” she says. “It’s a disgrace.”

As a result of public concern regarding the antiquated practice of “pound seizure,” whereby adoptable shelter animals are sold for various medical and educational uses, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Sacramento County, UC Davis, and Sutter Hospital in 1986, saying that in order for animals to be purchased and then used for research and/or teaching, the purchasers agreed to comply with various requirements set forth by the county. Those requirements include keeping records, ensuring the animals are not used in duplicative procedures, complying with local, state, and federal laws, and keeping animals free from avoidable stress. For 18 years, almost every requirement of the MOU has been violated, and continues to this day.

For years, animal protection groups negotiated with all parties to try and resolve these violations and the terms of the MOU, but exhausted the possibilities with little success. The lawsuit comes as a last resort to safeguard the companion animals entrusted to Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation, and therefore seeks to have the sales of shelter animals terminated, as required by the MOU. It also seeks damages for illegal sales of animals since the agreement’s inception 18 years ago. If damages are awarded, the money will go toward free and low-cost sterilization surgeries for companion animals of people who cannot afford the veterinary medical procedure and care.

“Because there are numerous blatant violations which have occurred continuously for years, we can only assume that the animals who have ended up at the shelter and who were sold for teaching and research were not important enough to the county to even keep track of them. We want the practice stopped now,” says Teri Barnato, National Director of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. “AVAR filed a complaint with the county in November 2002 which detailed some of the violations. It resulted in a slap on the wrist for UC Davis and Sutter Hospital,” she says.

“Given that the Sacramento County Animal Shelter sits in the state capitol, it should be a model for shelters and sheltering policies,” says IDA Executive Director Dr. Elliot Katz. “It has failed on both accounts.”


Michelle Thew - Animal Protection Institute (API) - 916-447-3085 x211
Teri Barnato - Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights - 530-219-7192

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