Dr. Michael E. DeBakey {op-ed, June 4} takes the animal welfare movement to task for objecting to the practice of public pounds' providing "cheap" and "unwanted" dogs and cats for research. He rightly points out that most of these animals will be killed anyway. However, their deaths in the pounds will be quick and, we hope, painless, as opposed to a prolonged and painful death in the research labs. DeBakey points to "medical advances" resulting from animal experimentation; what he does not mention is the millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on experiments that have little or nothing to do with human health. For example:

Fourteen adult cats ("acquired from the pound") and 41 kittens as young as one week fitted with "cranial implants," harnessed to treadmills and subjected to repeated, intense tail and paw shocks preceded by air blasts to the tail, to observe subsequent crying out after air blast in anticipation of shock. A microphone was placed in front of the subject's mouth to record crying out. Because intense shocks produced struggling in adult cats, experimenters began with lower shock intensities, which increased gradually. Kittens were shocked from the beginning with the highest intensities. The youngest kittens could not associate air blast with shock and thus did not cry out at air blast alone. Paid for by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant totaling $244,943 in FY 1983-85.

"Mongrel" dogs hung in hammocks with their legs protuding and subjected to repeated, intense leg shocks preceded by tones, or repeated leg shocks and "random" tones (not related to shock), then forced to lift their right or left paw following tones to avoid shocks to the opposite leg. As expected, dogs exposed to random tones and shocks had great difficulty learning to avoid shock. Paid for by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant totaling $641,458 in FY 1983-85.

What DeBakey overlooks in the fight on pound seizure is that pounds are supported by local taxpayers. Last year in Florida the public was outraged when it learned that a local researcher was going to drown 44 pound dogs, and that outrage resulted in pound-seizure bans in many Florida counties. It was not the animal welfare societies that stopped it. It was the local taxpayers who, because they support the pounds with their tax dollars, have every right to decide what should happen to the animals in those pounds.

-- MacDonald White The writer is president of United Action for Animals, Inc.