The practice of a company or individual pulling dogs and cats from municipal shelters and using them in biomedical research is called “pound seizure.” Eighteen states prohibit it, but many others, like Texas, have no law regarding it.
One Texas company that seems to engage in a form of pound seizure is Sound-Eklin in Arlington.
The company, which sells veterinary digital imaging equipment, is a division of VCA Antech, which, according to its website “owns, operates, and manages the largest network of freestanding veterinary hospitals and veterinary-exclusive clinical laboratories in the country.”
Sound-Eklin doesn't do any biomedical testing of dogs; its training division, the Academy of Veterinary Imaging, uses dogs to train veterinarians on the equipment that Sound-Eklin sells. Some of these dogs are “borrowed” from the Arlington pound, and returned the same day. In 2013, Sound-Eklin's applications specialist, Tina Cleckler, put out an online plea with a rescue group to spread the word about dogs the company wanted to adopt out.
Cleckler wrote that the Academy of Veterinary Imaging's education director, Joyce Holt, “tries to recruit as many dogs as possible from the euthanasia list at the Arlington pound.” Cleckler explained that some dogs stay with the nearby Cedar Valley College “to help train veterinary technicians,” and some of the dogs “also come to [Sound-Eklin] and are sedated for ultrasounds when we have courses. It isn't easy work for them, but it buys them time until [Holt] can place them.”
Nevertheless, Cleckler explained, Holt had to go to the Arlington pound “frequently to get animals, and it breaks our heart when she has to return good dogs to be euthanized because we simply don't have the room!!”
Holt told us that the majority of dogs that the Academy of Veterinary Imaging pulls from the pound are adopted out – she says the company has found homes for over 800 dogs and cats in the past eight years, with the majority being adopted by the vets and vet techs who are trained on the equipment. She also says an individual animal is never used in training more than twice.
“What we do with the City of Arlington – adopting and rehoming all these animals, that is our way as a company of giving back to the animal world,” Holt says.
Animals that aren't adopted right away are boarded, but sometimes the demand for training is so high that additional animals are necessary.
That's when, Holt says, “I borrow animals from the shelter – I give them a large donation to do that….I pick them up, transport them to our education facility in Arlington….we give them a light sedation, we teach with them, and then we return them to the city of Arlington.”
Holt says the process benefits the pound because the animals get free ultrasounds to identify potential problems which may have otherwise been missed.
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“You have to look at the whole picture,” she says. “Because when we, per se, borrow them, we're giving them a free ultrasound exam, which costs hundreds of dollars in a clinic. And we're giving them information on that animal, as to its health….And we give them a big donation for letting us borrow those animals for the day, which helps them to keep their shelter going and to keep it in good working order.”
Arlington Animal Services Director Christine Huff says the pound has a live-release rate of 85-95 percent.
When asked if it might be a stressful experience for a dog to go from the street or an abusive home to a shelter, then from the shelter to an ultrasound training facility where it's lightly sedated, then returned to the pound after vets and vet techs have practiced on the equipment, Huff told us this: “We take our dogs out for mobile adoptions and we take our dogs out for neighborhood programs.”
So there you go.