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Animal rescue group saves dogs and cats from research

December 17th, 2003, 11:56 PM
Animal rescue group saves dogs and cats from research

By Paul Hutchings

Pete Wilson, volunteer for the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC) shows off some of the latest acquisitions of Project Jessie.
Even with advanced technology, animals are still finding their way into research labs for medical or scientific experiments. So the Animal Alliance of Canada (AAC) has created a program to try and bring the numbers of these unfortunate animals down.

Project Jessie was named after a dog who through no fault of her own, ended up in a pound. By the time the AAC heard of Jessie, it was too late for her. The program, which aims to keep thousands of animals out of laboratories, was named in her memory.

"Pounds are supposed to be a haven for lost and abandoned pets, but they’ve become a warehouse for cheap dogs and cats to be used as guinea pigs," says Jacqui Barnes, AAC director. "Project Jessie prevents researchers from getting their hands on these animals and gives them a second chance."

Animals are purchased through funds raised for Project Jessie. They are taken out of the shelters and brought to veterinarians where they are given medical care, and spayed or neutered. They are brought to a group home to be socialized, and given a small amount of training by volunteers, and made available to the public for adoption.

"In Ontario, we’ve brought the number of animals going to research down substantially," says Liz White, ACC director, who says approximately 5,000 animals were sent to research facilities in this province 15 years ago, and last year that number was under 1,000.

White says she hasn’t seen this year’s statistics yet, but she hopes the numbers are even lower.

"Some of the animals go to colleges, where students learn how to give needles," she adds. "Others go to hard core research, where something is done to the animal that is not in its interest, like drawing blood, or a biopsy. There’s also household cleaner and cosmetic testing, and drug testing."

White says the project’s namesake typifies the type of animal they’re trying to help. Jessie was a dog who found herself in a pound due to a broken home. They tried to get a driver out to pick her up, but Jessie was purchased by a research facility before anyone could get to her.

The program is run on private donations, and they manage to raise and spend approximately $70,000 per year. They’ve managed to rescue about 400 or more animals per year since the project’s inception in 1991.

Project Jessie is run exclusively by volunteers, with one paid staff worker. White says she’s hopeful that the laws governing animals for research can be changed now that there is a new prime minister in place.

"In Europe there is significant pressure to stop animal testing, and they’re coming up with different alternatives to testing," White says. "We’re hoping for that same pressure and the same type of action here in Canada."

To be part of Project Jessie, visit Animal Alliance