has one word for animal activists: Fanatics
Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner doesnt have a lot of patience
for activists who are trying to make the county stop selling animals
from the shelter for research: They are a bunch of fanatics,
similar to the right-to-life extremists who occasionally assassinate
a doctor who conducts abortions, he said in an interview.
Grebner said that the campaign, led by an organization called the Friends
of the Ingham County Animal Shelter, has made elected officials waste
time and energy and added that commissioners are now receiving mail
from Detroit, Alaska and Brazil.
Those are not my constituents, said Grebner.
He said e-mails to the county from activists a few months ago were so
voluminous that they crashed the computer system.
Could Grebner be getting carried away?
Possibly. The chief of the countys management information systems
says he doesnt recall any lobbying effort that shut down e-mail
Grebner may be confused, too. At least he appeared to be in his attempt
to link FICAS with an organization that he said was linked to a fire
Most of the stuff that FICAS does is under one umbrella with PETA
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA was linked
to the MSU Agricultural Hall fire bombing. They havent fire bombed
me yet, and Im not going to be threatened by these people.
was apparently confusing two incidents. Earth Liberation Front took
responsibility for the 1999 Agricultural Hall fire. In 1992, a radical
group called the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) took responsibility for
freeing laboratory animals and setting a fire at Anthony Hall. In this
second case, PETA issued a press release on ALFs behalf, describing
the alleged terrible conditions in which animals were kept.
Responding to Grebners accusations, Linda Fausey, the attorney
for FICAS, said the volunteer organization was not involved in criminal
acts on the MSU campus. Its getting slanderous. Its
Grebners problem if he cannot distinguish between people blowing
up buildings and people rescuing animals.
Fausey said the real issue was that people wanted to know why pets are
being sold for experiments and why these research facilities arent
able to raise their own test animals. Fausey said concerned residents
also wanted to know why Ingham County has tried to destroy
FICAS, which she called a productive animal rescue volunteer group.
of the Ingham County Animal Shelter was suspended from doing volunteer
work in February because the shelter director, Roger Fleming, claimed
it had destroyed a relationship of trust. Fleming accused
the nonprofit organizations founder, Allie Phillips, and two other
activists of involvement in a scheme to get back an animal that the
shelter had sold for research. Phillips, an Ingham County assistant
prosecutor, was then suspended and later fired by Prosecutor Stuart
Dunnings for her role and unwillingness to apologize.
The turmoil between FICAS and the shelter began in 2001, when the Board
of Commissioners voted 10-3 to continue releasing animals to research
laboratories for the purpose of medical research. County Commissioner
Mike Severino of Holt, who voted against the practice, supports the
animal activists in their current struggle.
Theyre a bunch of concerned citizens, he said, defending
the group against Grebners accusations. Severino also stated that
the shelter currently violates Ingham Countys animal adoption
policy. Resolution 01-111 favors that animals be placed in adoptive
homes and made available for adoption. The option of selling animals
to dealers or euthanizing them should be done only when other efforts
fail. But volunteers report several instances when pets were killed
only shortly before adoption groups arrived.
becomes very clear that all the problems stem from one source-the shelters
director Roger Fleming-because he seems to have a personal vendetta
with Allie Phillips, Severino said. Severino,and Holt Commissioner
John Nevin are forming a Pound Animal Welfare task force to investigate
shelter practices. However, they havent yet managed to convince
their colleagues to make the task force part of the commissioners
Law Enforcement Committee, giving it official legal status.
Including Ingham County, there are only eight of the 83 counties in
Michigan sell animals to Class B dealers (dealers who also
purchase dogs from unlicensed sellers), who in turn sell them to research
facilities. Ingham sold 26 dogs and 21 cats to these middlemen dealers
County Commissioner Lisa Dedden said animal advocates did a good job
at making the Board of Commissioners and the public more aware of such
shortcomings at the shelter, and I hope they continue calling
public attention to these issues.
Although Dedden would prefer the complete ban of selling animals to
dealers, she voted in favor of the October 2001 resolution that allowed
the practice to continue, except in instances of product testing because
she reasoned that there was still no political majority for a complete
colleagues, she said, were of the opinion that animals that would be
put to sleep anyway might as well be used for research projects, which
might contribute to our scientific understanding of humans and other
animals. The resolution was realistically the only achievable
step at the time, Dedden said. She pointed out, however, that
shes looking into additional reforms, including a reconsideration
of the Ingham County Animal Controls shelter key functions.
Area Humane Societys director, Steven Heaven, said at the Commissioners
Board meeting in 2001 that hed like the county to cease its practice
of selling animals for research. In an interview last week, the Humane
Societys vice president for development, Gretchen Couraud, confirmed:
We dont sell animals for laboratory research. But
not wishing to take a position in the current debate, she stated, but
we also dont comment on the necessity of animal research.
Animal rights groups have criticized selling pets to Class B dealers,
who are also permitted to buy dogs from unlicensed sellers. Legally,
Class B dealers must purchase from sellers who can prove that animals
are raised on their own premises. But although federal law specifically
prohibits the sale of stolen dogs, the U.S. Agriculture Department has
taken little effective action, as book author Judith Reitman points
The sale of pets for medical research is a dying business in the United
States. In large due to the public awareness campaigns of animal rights
organizations such as PETA, the nations medical schools increasingly
use bloodless instructional methods over animals for classroom training.
And according to a study published in Academic Medicine only 32 percent
of medical schools reported using dogs or other live animals in laboratory
training in 2001, down from 62 percent in 1994, and 73 percent in 1985.
Severino said he felt we ought to become a more progressive county.
He said he will try to educate his colleagues on animal rights issues,
to encourage a majority ban of sales for research. If we cant
educate them, then I hope the constituents will do so at the next election
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