tale begins in January, when volunteers at the Ingham County Animal
Shelter in Mason learned that two stray cats were going to be sold to
a dealer who in turn would resell the animals for research. Shelter
volunteers placed a classified ad about their impending fate. The Ionia
Humane Society offered to adopt them. But the dealer, R&R Research
in Howard City (Montcalm County), had already filled out the paperwork.
In a final rescue attempt, one volunteer, who asked not to be identified,
pretended to be the original owner of one of the cats and retrieved
the feline from the shelter for a redemption fee. The shelters
director, Roger Fleming, followed the woman to her Jackson County home
and confronted her with the rescued cat in the parking lot. Fleming
flashed his Animal Control badge, telling her shed committed a
felony, for which she could go to jail.
On Feb. 7, Fleming ended the special access that a volunteer organization,
Friends of the Ingham County Animal Shelter, had at the shelter. FICAS
founder, Allie Phillips, was soon after suspended from her post as an
Ingham County assistant prosecutor for allegedly advising a private
citizen on how to make a false sworn affidavit to the county for the
purpose of obtaining a cat. Her boss, Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart
Dunnings III, fired her when she refused to apologize for what he called
an ethical breach.
the incident, animal protection activists throughout Michigan have been
rocking the boat with a campaign to ban Ingham Countys practice
of selling lost pets for scientific research. Most counties in Michigan
do not permit the sale of animals for research. State records indicate
that around 10 counties allow it.
Daniel Sturm/City Pulse
Farley of a Detroit-area animal rights group, A Voice for Animals,
helped launch a leafleting campaign to ban the sale of shelter
animals for research. The campaign has encouraged hundreds of
area residents to send postcards to the Ingham County Board of
Commissioners. Farley was one of about a dozen volunteers at the
East lansing Art festival.
Since the campaign began, Ingham County commissioners have received
thousands of e-mails and postcards. Although Ingham County has decreased
the number of pets sold to research labs over the years (from 89 dogs
and 39 cats in 1998 to 26 dogs and 21 cats in 2002), due to increased
public pressure, there is still no board majority to ban the practice
Responding to the anger of its pet-loving constituency, county commissioners
are considering an increase in the sale price to dealers, such as R&R
Research, from $10 to $25. This would be the same rate that nonprofit
groups pay to adopt animals. Commissioners believe the amended rates
may create more equity. This way we can prevent the outrage, and
some people might even stop sending us these angry e-mails, said
Ingham County Commissioner Mark Grebner. The proposed resolution would
still not affect the higher adoption fee private citizens must pay,
which is $30 per cat, and $48 per dog.
to Linda Fausey, FICAS attorney, price is not the central issue.
She calls the proposal just a smoke screen to evade dealing
with poor policies at the shelter. Selling animals for research is the
primary issue, but another is whether the animals are always made available
for adoption as soon as it is legally permitted, which is usually seven
days. Fausey claims they are not.
Fleming denies Fauseys claim. But Fleming says that sometimes
he has to make room at the shelter through euthanasia and sales soon
after animals have been put up for adoption.
When Fleming sells, some animals go to Class B dealers. The U.S.Department
of Agriculture , which regulates the sale of animals for research, defines
a Class B dealer as one who may resell animals to research institutions,
such as Michigan State University. The only other kind of dealers are
Class A, who breed animals specifically for laboratory research. When
an animal shelter sells to a Class B dealer, former pets may end up
in research labs. The sale of shelter animals to Class B dealers is
one of the central debates surrounding the Ingham County Animal Shelter.
cites the language of a state statute in arguing that the shelter must
sell directly to research institutions and may not sell to dealers,
such as R&R Research. The law says that an animal shelter
may sell for an amount not to exceed $10.00 per animal
to a Michigan
R&R, says Fausey, does not do research: They dont use
animals in research, but sell cats and dogs for profit to research laboratories.
Fausey said Michigan law was designed to stop the inclination to profit
through the sale of animals to the highest bidder and to ensure animals
would not be sold for dog fighting, torture or other unregulated or
Fleming responds that selling to dealers is legal, an argument he bases
on former Attorney General Frank Kelleys interpretation of the
law in 1978: It is my opinion that Michigan law presently permits
a dog pound or animal shelter to sell unclaimed or unwanted dogs to
a licensed dealer, who resells such animals for research purposes.
Furthermore, Fleming said he has conducted four random checks in the
past five years to make sure that dogs and cats were sold only to research
institutions. In October 2001, Ingham County passed a resolution allowing
the sale of animals to research to continue but excluding their use
in product testing. Most county commissioners are of the opinion that
animals that would otherwise be put to sleep might as well be used in
research projects that might contribute to scientific advancement.
Sale of Animals for Research A Dying Business
The largest facility purchasing animals for research in the area is
Michigan State University. MSU employs two Michigan Class B dealers,
R&R Research and Hodgins Kennel Inc. in Howell, and pays $300 for
every conditioned dog and $200 for every conditioned
cat, meaning the animals are free from worms, parasites and fleas. Karen
Hudson, an assistant director of MSUs Laboratory Animal Resources,
said less healthy animals were used in short-term projects at a purchase
price of $130 for dogs and $110 for cats.
Hudson said MSU purchased 382 dogs and cats from pounds and Class B
dealers in its 2001 fiscal year. Animals were used for neurological
research training purposes at the veterinarian schools Junior
Surgery Center, and in other medical research. Hudson said MSU purchased
39 dogs from Class B dealers in 2002 mainly because we dont
always have the room or the veterinary time to dedicate to the conditioning
process. She also said MSU orthopedic researchers needed older
animals, which they cant get from Class A dealers. Hudson also
pointed out it was also more cost efficient to buy from Class B dealers.
Class A dealers usually charge an average of $700 per animal.
Attorney Fausey said rhetorically: Our land-grant university cant
condition? Thats a joke. Its a teaching facility, so why
dont the veterinary students do this?
And some opponents of selling shelter animals for research are dubious
that Class B dealers even condition the dogs.
But R&R owner James Woudenberg said he predominantly sells conditioned
animals, which requires keeping animals for a minimum of 30 days. Fewer
animals would be sold for acute studies, meaning studies
in which the animals would not need to be healthy, or conditioned,
from the onset, he said.
rights groups criticize the sale of animal shelter pets to Class B dealers,
who they claim also purchase animals from unlicensed sellers. Legally,
Class B dealers must buy from sellers who can prove that animals were
raised on their own premises. Although federal law specifically prohibits
the sale of stolen dogs, the USDA has taken little effective action,
as book author Judith Reitman points out. Reitman lists several cases
of lost pets who were stolen specifically for resale to
Class B dealers.
In light of acknowledged shortcomings in the USDAs ability to
regulate animal trade, the universities of Texas and Illinois no longer
acquire animals from Class B dealers. Instead, they only purchase dogs
through Class A dealers. In 2002, MSU purchased 39 cats and dogs from
Class B dealers and 155 dogs and cats from pounds and shelters. Sixty
three came from Eaton County, 90 from Jackson County and two from Ingham
County. They received another 188 pets through donations (from other
colleges or from private industry). Last year, MSU bought 38 animals
from Class A dealers.
The sale of animals for medical research is a dying business in the
United States. This is in large part due to the successful public awareness
campaigns of animal rights organizations. The nations medical
schools now increasingly use bloodless instructional methods over animals
for classroom training. And, according to a recent 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. From 1991 to 2001 the number
of dogs and cats bought for the purpose of research in the United States
dropped 35 percent.
In Great Britain, it is against the law for medical students to practice
surgery on animals, and in many of the leading U.S. medical schools,
including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, innovative, clinical teaching
methods have replaced old-fashioned animal laboratories. Harvard, for
instance, offers a Cardiac Anesthesia Practicum, where students observe
human-heart bypass operations instead of participating in dog
Pound seizure, or the selling of pound animals for research, is illegal
in England, Denmark, Sweden and Holland. In the United States there
is no federal law regarding the practice, but 14 states forbid it: Maine,
New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New
York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, South
Carolina, and Hawaii. Many other states have no law and leave it to
county and town governments to decide. However, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma,
South Dakota, and Utah require pound seizures for government research
Ingham County is one of a few Michigan counties that sell animals for
research. Due to public pressure, Shiawassee County, Clinton County,
Barry County, and the City of Detroit recently abandoned the practice,
and Clare County stopped selling to Class B dealers back in the 1980s,
during the height of national awareness for animal rights. Other counties,
like Oakland, never allowed shelter animals to be sold for research.
County Commissioner Grebner said the fact that other municipalities
have backed down under pressure was no good reason for Ingham County
to do so. If [Ingham] did, this would be much like saying if
other abortion providers back down, why dont you back down too?
Grebners frustration about the constant public pressure was directed
especially toward the May 17 rally in East Lansing, when protesters
carried signs with his photograph, which read: Mark Grebner voted
to sell our shelter pets for research. Grebner said he perceived
the recent campaign largely as an attempt to intimidate him politically.
He blamed his opponents for not acknowledging the Ingham County Animal
Shelters real policy, which he said was to favor returning lost
pets to their original owners, trying to find adoptive homes, and offering
rescue animals (those which are not readily adoptable) at
a discounted price. Grebner maintains that only if these steps fail,
or the shelter runs out of space, would animals be sold for research
Robert Silva, an MSU professor who works for the USDAs Avian Disease
Oncology Laboratory, testified before the Ingham County Board of Commissioners
in 2001. Using animals for research is poor science, he
said, pointing out that fewer and fewer research facilities engage in
the practice. Medical research institutions increasingly use computers
that allow researchers to test new treatments electronically, before
using them on humans. Computerized virtual organs predict
how drugs will be absorbed and metabolized. Hence, drug companies can
now test the effects of substances electronically, decreasing the need
for laboratory animals.
Daniel Sturm/City Pulse
Fleming (above) holds a cat at the Ingham County Animal Shelter.
Allie Phillips (below) together with foster cat Olivia at Phillips
South Lansing home. Lansing-area outdoor advertisers recently turned
down a billboard (below) from People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA), an international animal rights organization. Phillips,
a local animal protection activist, said that she feels scared
by the extreme tactics of PETA campaigns. She thinks their new billboard
is clearly over the top..
worlds largest sponsor of animal experiments, the National Institutes
of Health, which dispenses several billion tax dollars in grants annually,
advises researchers not to use animals taken from pounds or shelters.
Due to these animals unknown histories, the results of experiments
can be questionable. And the National Animal Control Association states
that the decision to use animals in research should be made without
involvement of animal shelters.
Animal welfare organizations object strongly to selling shelter animals
for research, because animals that were pets suffer the double blow
of confinement to laboratory cages and the loss of human companionship.
The critics also point out that animals may suffer horribly before they
die. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an international
animal rights organization with more than 750,000 members, once sent
an undercover investigator to Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio,
to witness the use of dogs seized from the local pound in painful experiments.
The dogs were infected with scabies, a skin disease caused by microscopic
mites that spread over their entire bodies. WSU was later charged with
violating the Animal Welfare Act and fined $20,000. But the local
pound continues to release animals to the university, concluded
PETA in a report published on its Web site. And back at home, in Mid-Michigan,
a recent leafleting campaign launched by a Detroit-area animal rights
group, A Voice for Animals, has encouraged Lansing-area residents to
send postcards to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners, asking them
to ban the sale of shelter animals for research. To date, county records
show it has received 604 postcards.
Animal Rights Activists Labeled Fanatics
Despite the impressive list of arguments that speak against the sale
of lost pets, County Commissioner Grebner only has one word for people
opposing the countys practice: fanatics. Grebner remains
firm in his opinion that the entire issue is a waste of time and
energy. Grebner added at the Boards Law Enforcement Committee
meeting May 15: Weve discussed this for the fourth time
in 20 years now. Its a total distraction from the core task of
Grebner claims FICAS shares a common agenda with PETA. He blames local
activists for having the wrong agenda, explaining: They dedicate
their lives to animals. Theyre similar to the right-to-life extremists,
who occasionally assassinate a doctor who conducts abortions.
Grebner believes Ingham Countys animal control director is doing
an excellent job and has no reason to be on top of the PETA hit
list. He claims to feel threatened by local activists and has
asked for an extra police officer on duty to ensure public safety at
the board meetings.
But Ingham County doesnt appear to be a large object on PETAs
radar screen. Kate Turlington, PETAs special assistant for research
and investigations, said PETA sent out letters to county commissioners
in 2002 but wasnt currently engaged in the Lansing campaign.
Moreover, FICAS director, Phillips, said that PETA has never contacted
her. If theyd contact me, Id say Thank you for
your offer, but this is our fight. Phillips, who started her nonprofit
group in September 2000, said that she too feels scared
by the extreme tactics of PETA campaigns. She thinks a new PETA billboard
is clearly over the top and that the Lansing-area outdoor
advertisers were right to turn it down. The billboard shows Col. Sanders
spattered in blood and clutching a terrified chicken in one hand and
a bloody butcher knife in the other, bearing the tagline: Kentucky
We Do Chickens Wrong.
said that, contrary to PETA, FICAS doesnt condemn raising animals
for stock. Theres a clear difference: You dont bond
with stock animals, she said. In line with many humane societies
mission statements, Phillips suggests that if research facilities cant
entirely switch to humane alternatives, they should at least buy animals
from Class A dealers. Purpose-bred animals had a lower mortality rate
in laboratories, perhaps because they havent been sensitized to
human social environments. Phillips also doubts the argument that Class
A animals are more expensive. Initially, they may cost more, but lost
pets from pounds or Class B dealers must go through an expensive period
of conditioning before becoming part of an experiment, making
them more expensive than purpose-bred animals.
The turmoil between FICAS and the Ingham County Shelter began on January
27, when the weekly advertising publication Wheeler Dealer
published a Save-A-Pet Page, alerting the public that former
pets were being sold to Class B dealers by Ingham County Animal Control.
We didnt place that ad, said Phillips. The shelter
volunteers placing the ad acted individually, Philips said. But shelter
Director Fleming still suspected the group, and ordered FICAS to stop
placing Save-A-Pet ads. FICAS volunteers were banned from rescuing abandoned
pets on site, after which they reported several instances where animals
were sold for research the very day they were made available for adoption.
Fleming suspended us because he believed we placed the ad. He
wanted to punish us. It was retaliation, Phillips said.
Fleming told City Pulse that due to potential legal ramifications, he
couldnt tell the entire story but said that FICAS has destroyed
a relationship of trust.
of Ingham Countys sale of animals for research will hold
a rally at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, outside the county courthouse
in Mason before the commission meets at 7:30 p.m., at which aspects
of animal sales will be discussed. The rock band Frog & the
Beeftones is scheduled to entertain.
The federal Animal Welfare Act of 1966 set standards of treatment
for animals used in scientific research, stipulating that labs
can acquire them only from dealers who are licensed by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The provision is meant to prevent the
sale of stolen pets to labs.
Any adult citizen of the United States can acquire a USDA license
to sell dogs to research institutions. There are two kinds of
dealer licenses. Class A dealers, according to the broad terms
of the act, breed dogs for sale. When buying from Class A dealers,
research institutions have some assurance that they have bought
an animal intended from the outset for research. But many institutions
buy research animals, from both Class A and Class B dealers. The
latter dealers are less expensive because they do not raise the
animals themselves. Class B dealers are permitted to buy animals
from unlicensed sellers, known as bunchers, as long
as the bunchers prove having bred and raised the animals on their
own premises, or obtained them from someone who did.
The USDA is required by law to inspect and monitor Class B dealers
to ensure that animals are legally acquired. The Department of
Agriculture is responsible for the prosecution of any dealer who
sells stolen animals to a research facility and is empowered to
bring an injunction against any dealer suspected of trading stolen
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), www.peta.org.
Friends of Ingham County Animal Shelter, www.ficas.petfinder.org
Ingham County Animal Control, www.ingham.org/ac/home.htm
protection groups have lost their trust, too, says Amber Sitko, a member
of A Voice for Animals, who distrusts Fleming. She said Fleming told
her that hed never allow an animal to go to research unless
it would otherwise be euthanized. Sitko showed pictures of a yellow
lab, Kingston, and offered a copy of shelter acquisitions paperwork
indicating the dog was bought and sold on the same day it was made available
for adoption. The Microsoft consultant believes animals at the Ingham
County shelter are sometimes not kept long enough before being put to
sleep or sold. Why not allow more time for potential owners to view
Before being placed for adoption or sold, animals must be held at the
shelter for a minimum of four business days if they are strays and seven
business days if found with a collar, according to the Ingham County
Animal Control Ordinance.
Fighting Like Cats and Dogs
Before becoming the animal control shelter director, Fleming was Masons
police chief. In January 1998, he resigned from the position, following
a disclosure that he was secretly married to a woman who held a local
liquor license. For a police officer, this was a violation of the state
liquor law. Prior to his resignation, Fleming told the Detroit Free
Press: There is no way I can continue as a police chief after
being a party to breaking the law.
Mike Severino, one of the few county commissioners opposing the sale
of pets for research, commented: Youd have to wonder how
truthful Fleming has been to this board in this recent controversy,
when hes shown in the past how hes lied in his own controversy.
Severino said the board hired Fleming five years ago, prior to his own
term as commissioner. I would have looked more closely into his
history, which wasnt a secret. He obviously wasnt good enough
for the police, but he was good enough for Animal Control.
In a letter postmarked May 12, FICAS attorney Fausey put more pressure
on county commissioners to deal with the unlawful actions
carried out at the shelter. On March 14, the Attorney Generals
Office informed Dunnings, the county prosector, that it wasnt
going to authorize any criminal charges against the volunteers who were
involved in rescuing a cat. Drawing from the documentation of Phillips
lawyer, the attorney generals letter agreed that the entire case
raises questions regarding the legal authority and propriety of
the sale to R&R Research. Phillips lawyer, Guy L. Sweet,
had documented that R&R Research was in fact a Class B dealer and
not a research facility. Fausey also blamed commissioners for having
turned a blind eye to a conflict of interest. FICAS director Phillips
alleged she had heard Fleming discuss plans to take shelter staff on
hunting trips to a cabin owned by Woudenberg, who operates R&R Research.
Woudenberg denies this allegation. We have a straight and professional
relationship, he said. And Fleming added: Thats a
preposterous accusation. I have no social relationship with Woudenberg
County Commissioner Lisa Dedden declined to comment on these personal
issues. However, she criticized a series of missteps at the shelter,
which made the public increasingly frustrated. She specifically
referred to the case of Lansing resident, Dameion Pittman, who returned
home on the evening of April 13 to find a blood stain on his front porch
and a note saying a Lansing police officer had shot his dog.
Daniel Sturm/City Pulse
Lansing resident Dameion Pittman (and his girlfriend Jamie Prevo),
whose dog was shot by a Lansing police officer. Pittman said his
dog might still be alive had the officers acted in a professional
manner. below) Onondaga resident Ray Brooks pet Sammy,
who survived a Pitbull attack. Two of his cats were killed by the
dogs. Brooks filed complaints, but claims Ingham County Animal Control
didnt care about the threat coming from the
to a recent Lansing Board of Police Commissioners investigative
report, Pittmans neighbor, Randy Gilbert, had called Ingham County
Animal Control that afternoon to complain that a rottweiler across the
street was running at-large. When Ingham County Control officer Yvonne
Gaines arrived at the Bradley Avenue home, the 6-year-old rottweiler,
Quddus, which had been lying down on Pittmans porch, began to
stand up and growl. Officer Walt Kim arrived to backup Gaines, as she
attempted to tranquilize the dog. But with Quddus now huddled behind
a screen on the porch, she couldnt get a clear shot. When the
police officer and animal control officer approached the porch, the
dog stood up and began growling and advancing toward them.
Kim shot the dog in the neck with his regular issue firearm. Gaines
also fired a tranquilizer dart at the dog. The dog retreated to the
back yard, where Gaines shot it with a second dart. After Quddus appeared
sluggish enough, they transported the animal to Lansing Veterinary Urgent
Care, where it was euthanized.
Pittman said his dog might still be alive, had the officers acted in
a professional manner. A dog is by nature territorial, and if
a stranger enters its territory, particularly one with a gun, you should
expect illicit aggressive behavior.
Several neighbors testified that the dog had not appeared vicious
prior to police arrival, and that local children had been petting it
earlier. That incident was the straw that broke the camels
back, Dedden said.
Fleming was grilled by county commissioners at a special hearing April
29 for his handling of the case. They particularly criticized the fact
that Fleming told Pittman he might face misdemeanor charges for allowing
his dog to run at-large. I really dont like it when the
Animal Control director blames citizens. Thats the prosecutors
job, said Commissioner Randy Schafer.
Fleming said Officer Gaines had acted within the guidelines.
He said he was glad Ingham County has chosen not to prosecute. Thats
how its supposed to be.
Theres still some blood on the porch of Pittmans home, and
he says he isnt satisfied with the investigations findings.
He said he wont remain silent and will hold Animal Control accountable
for killing his dog.
After a number of board meetings at which dozens of people spoke up
about Ingham Countys treatment of animals, commissioners realized
something had to be done. They are now considering putting the agency
up for bid and hoping a committed non profit organization might want
to take it over. In a second resolution, they will also consider reaffirming
their policy on the sale of shelter animals for research, but raising
the fees for sales. The resolutions will be up for vote on May 27, followed
by a public hearing the day after. Its like you invite people
to a party the day after it happened, criticized Severino.
Commissioner Dedden also criticized the lack of public participation.
Rather than putting Animal Control out for bid, Dedden suggests establishing
an advisory board to handle complaints. Theres been such
a large number of complaints that I think we should consider overhauling
the department. She argued that it wouldnt be hard to find
people to volunteer for the board, since there seemed to be more people
interested in animal rights than in most other public issues. Dedden
suggests developing a clear mission for the department, and clear services
the department will provide, so the director and employees, commissioners
and the public will have accurate expectations.
Currently, animal lovers and Animal Control staff have different views
about the Ingham County Animal Controls main purpose. Asked how
hed define the agencys mission, Fleming saw his role primarily
as law enforcement, while shelter volunteers viewed the department
primarily as a governmental operation to rescue and adopt animals and
to treat animals as humanely as possible.
A few weeks ago, yet another controversial case involved Animal Control.
On April 23, Onondaga-resident Ray Brooks took his three aging cats
out in his back yard. A few minutes later, he and his housemate witnessed
two pit bulls run into their yard, snatch up Pudder and their pregnant
cat Miss Kitty and kill both. Animal Control caught one of the dogs,
but released it for a redemption fee. The following week, Brooks saw
the pit bull running loose in his back yard again and called Animal
I told them that Im sure they will be back, Brooks
said. On May 12, the pit bulls were back and attacking the only surviving
cat, Sammy, but Brooks was able to intervene. Sammy survived the incident
with seven stitches. After Brooks filed another complaint, Fleming told
county commissioners his hands were tied,because Michigans Dangerous
Animals Act from 1988 protected only humans, livestock, and other dogs.
Cats are not included in that statute, Fleming said.
Five complaints were cited against the pit bulls owner in 2002,
prompting several warnings, a warrant, and a ticket. Brooks now wonders
why officers had killed a rottweiler, which hadnt actually done
anything wrong, while they were not tranquilizing the pitbulls that
had killed two cats and allegedly attacked other neighborhood cats.
This hypocrisy is unbelievable, Brooks said. Other Onondaga
residents have advised Brooks not to bother with Animal Control. Shoot,
shuffle, and do it yourself, he was told. Brooks said he had never
thought about buying a gun, but that he was now seriously considering
doing exactly that.
These stories of the heartless treatments of mankinds fellow animals
recall Mikhail Bulgakovs famous tale Heart of a Dog.
Bulgakov writes of a Moscow doctor who implants human organs into a
stray dog for study. The product of his experiment is a man who likes
chasing cats. But as the doctors assistant remarks, Chasing
after cats is the least objectionable thing he does! The whole horror
of the situation is that he now has a human heart.