Nov. 24 2010 12:00 AM

Allie Phillips’ new book exposes the practice of selling off shelter animals to research facilities



After spending time volunteering for Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter, Allie Phillips was surprised to learn that some of the animals she was working to help weren’t getting adopted, or even humanely put down: They were getting seized for research and experiments.

This practice was put to an end in 2003, thanks partly to Phillips’ efforts, but pound seizure still happen in Michigan and across the United States.

Phillips’ passion turned into a book, “How Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation,” that she hopes will shed light on a little-known practice. Now vice president of the American Human Association in Washington, D.C., she will travel to Lansing for book signings Friday and Saturday.

Pound seizure involves shelter dogs and cats taken away for research, sometimes directly by a research facility or often through a class B dealer that will resell the animals for profit to the research facilities.

An attorney, Phillips initially became aware of pound seizures when there were 15 shelters in Michigan involved in the practice. Now, there are only two.

When Phillips first started to investigate pound seizures in Ingham County, she was surprised to find resistance from both the Ingham County commissioner and the director of the animal shelter at the time.

“I just became very interested in it because the community overwhelmingly didn’t want this practice,” she said.

“I started digging into more of what it was all about and started to learn a lot about these dealers and the suspicious activities they engage in.”

One recurring and sad story she found in her research for the book was that of families going on vacation without their pet and coming back to find their pet had been seized for research. Sometimes, family pets escape from a kennel or run out of the house when someone is house-sitting. In some cases, these pets would have been seized for research by the time the family even knew they were gone.

Phillips’ book raises many questions about why animal shelters would support the practice.

In her research she found that sometimes shelters would even give class B dealers preference over families that wished to adopt an animal.

“It just raises a lot of suspicion as to why they would do that,” she said. “If they can adopt or rescue an animal, why wouldn’t they? Why would they instead send an animal to a class B dealer? It raises a lot of questions that we don’t have answers to.”

Phillips wrote a bill to end pound seizure in Michigan in early 2009, but it got stuck in the Senate and will die when this session ends. She said she expects the bill to be reintroduced next year, and encourages people to write their legislators telling them to support such a bill.

She said that people with animal shelters in their area still practicing pound seizure should write them and ask them to stop.

“Shelters don’t want to advertise this because it ensures that communities won’t support the shelter,” she said. “It really is a dirty little secret that no one wants to disclose. It is kept under wraps unless citizens and people working in animal advocacy uncover it and start talking about it in the community. People learn and want to do something about it.”

Allie Phillips book signing

Shelter Pets are Brokered for Experimentation" 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26
Everybody Reads Books and Stuff 2019 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 1 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 27 Barnes and Noble 333 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing