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Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research
23 percent were against such use. Similarly, 75 percent would oppose a law to prevent unclaimed pound animals from being used in medical research for the public benefit (Michigan Society for Medical Research [MISMR]).1 But the results of the Michigan poll must be balanced with the knowledge that it is a regional poll, limited in scope (see Box 2-1).
At the other end of the spectrum, the results of a national poll conducted by the American Humane Association in 1988 showed that many members of the public opposed pound seizure (discussed further in Chapter 4) because they viewed shelters as havens for homeless animals and not a resource for biomedical research (American Humane Shoptalk 1988). This perspective is shared by some academic institutions, exemplified by the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences (CVMBS) policy on animal use: “College policy prohibits the acquisition of live animals from shelters, either directly or indirectly through third party vendors, for use in research or teaching. The College recognizes that many individuals in our society are opposed, on ethical and scientific grounds, to the release of animals from shelters (pound seizure) for use in research or teaching. This objection is founded in the understanding that pounds or animal shelters were not designed as facilities to supply animals for such activities. Rather, they were developed to be places where people may bring unwanted or stray animals in the hope of a new home being found. If not successfully adopted, the animals may be euthanized. The release of these animals for research or teaching may be interpreted as a breach of the public trust that could lead to loss of public support” (CVMBS 2006a). In addition to concern about the use of pound animals in research, the CVMBS policy also addresses the quality of care provided to the animals used by the College: “In selecting sources from which to purchase animals to be used in research and teaching, the CVMBS strives to patronize only those suppliers who maintain the highest standards of animal care. Examples of preferred animal sources for teaching and research include: Animals typically available through well-established, federally licensed and regulated sources of purpose-bred and raised animals for teaching and research are used exclusively for species such as dogs and cats” (CVMBS 2006b).
The tendency to view dogs and cats as family members has become stronger in the past 20 years, as evidenced not only by polls (according to a 2007 Harris poll, 88 percent of pet owners view their pets as family members) but also by increased spending on veterinary care, food, toys, clothing, and day care, and by the PETS Act passed by Congress in 2006 (Harris Poll 2007). After Hurricane Katrina, when scores of people either refused to evacuate and/or returned home early out of concern for their pets,