Yesterday marked a mile stone for me. It was ten years ago (February 5, 2003) that a traumatic and unexpected turn of events thrust me into the animal advocacy world and changed my career and focus on shelter animals forever. Thirteen years ago, I learned about pound seizure (where shelters sell or give animals to research) at my local shelter where I was volunteering. I was horrified that such a practice existed in our so-called civilized society. So I instantly became an advocate for the shelter animals and to end the practice. Those were crazy days in trying to get as many of the shelter animals out of the shelter before the Class B dealer (animal research broker) arrived to pick his victims. When a cat named Karyn was taken from the shelter by a Class B dealer after attempts by my rescue group to save her were denied, I went into action.
At the time, I was thriving as an Assistant Prosecutor. I was really good at my job and highly respected. But I wasn’t going to tolerate a corrupt shelter director punishing the animals because he did not like our advocacy to convince our county leaders to end this practice. You can read about the rescue of Karyn from the Class B dealer in my book How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure (2010), how I sacrificed my career to bring public attention to this practice, how two of my volunteers were terrorized and had their house ransacked by local police, how an animal control officer not involved was fired, and much more. It will shock you that these illegal tactics occurred and that the Michigan Attorney General got involved, found nothing wrong in our exposure of the practice, and requested an investigation into the actions of the shelter (which never occurred).
When I experienced what people in positions of power can go to in covering up a dirty little secret, even being an insider in the criminal justice system was not enough to stop the witch hunt. It was a scary time, but I was surrounded by an amazing support system. And this was all over a small black cat named Karyn and efforts by myself and an entire community to end this barbaric practice.
At the time, it was not easy losing my chosen career; but I knew it was the right thing to do and that in the end I would end up in a better place, as would the shelter animals. And sure enough, a few months later a ban was placed on the shelter from selling animals to research. This swept across Michigan and now only one shelter is left engaging in the practice (Gratiot County Animal Control). And efforts continue to move that shelter into this century and end that practice is being done through my work with Michiganders for Shelter Pets.
When I look back over the past ten years, I am overjoyed at the path that my career has taken to protect animals on a larger scale, that the incident ten years ago prompted me to publish two books, and that more states are ending the practice of pound seizure. At the time, I never intended any of this to happen … I only wanted to protect the shelter animals. I now know that a greater power used me to raise awareness in a public and shocking way and it was all for the greater good. This is what happens when you instinctively do the right thing, even though at the time it may seem difficult.
So today, I encourage you to do the right thing for animals. Follow the law in doing so, but do not be afraid to speak out for them. After all, if we do not advocate for them, who will?
This post is in memory of Karyn (who thankfully was rescued from the dealer), Lilac (who opened my eyes to this practice and could not be saved), and to the thousands of shelter animals who lose their lives every year due to unnecessary and outdated experimentation practices.
Stay strong and be vocal,
Allie and Lucy (who was adopted from a pound seizure shelter)
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