Michael E. DeBakey's article in favor of releasing pound animals for research, "Medicine Needs These Animals" {op-ed, June 4}, pulled out all the emotional stops. This is particularly ironic since he accuses the animal-protection movement of using emotionalism instead of facts.

As is always the case when the biomedical community talks about pound seizure (the practice of releasing former pets from animal shelters for use in research laboratories), DeBakey confuses the need for animals -- even dogs and cats -- in research with the need for dogs and cats from pounds. The former pets make up less than 1 percent of all the animals used in research annually. If pound animals were no longer available, would all vital research into every major medical problem cease? Obviously not. Animals bred specifically for research, for example, would still be available.

The issue of pound seizure is not whether to eliminate the use of all animals in research. The issue is one of trust. We believe that it is the moral obligation of an animal shelter to serve not as a warehouse for research laboratories, but as a safe haven for a community's lost, unwanted or abandoned animals. This is the mandate of a shelter, the reason for its existence. To violate that mandate by feeding animals into the research pipeline can only serve to undermine public trust in community animal-control efforts. Animals and communities will suffer.

The biomedical community refers to these animals as "unwanted." They are, rather, displaced, through no fault of their own. Some are lost pets that have ended up in laboratories despite desperate attempts by their owners to find them. Some are stolen specifically to fuel the laboratory trade. Some are reserved for research while still in the shelter without ever having a chance to be adopted into a new, caring home. Researchers want the friendliest, healthiest dogs and cats available because they are easier to work with. Researchers are, therefore, competing directly with those who would adopt these animals.

The research community is exploiting the national tragedy of pet overpopulation to ensure a readily accessible supply of research animals. This may seem to be in the best interest of researchers, but it is certainly not in the best interest of the community.

Finally, we resent DeBakey's allusion to "harassment, terrorism and vandalism masquerading as concern for animals." This does a grave injustice to the millions of peaceful, dedicated people who support and work on behalf of animal protection, and who do not perform or condone such acts.

-- John A. Hoyt The writer is president of the Humane Society of the United States.