Michael DeBakey is incorrect in his figures and figuring of the cost of pound vs. purpose-bred dogs {"So Where Will Researchers Get Their Dogs?" Free for All, July 25}.

At the University of Virginia, animals from pounds are given to the Medical Center for free. They are then sold, after "conditioning," to a researcher for about $150. DeBakey does not take the cost of the conditioning into consideration and wrongly says that pound dogs cost $5 to $55. Comparing this $150 pound dog with a similar purpose-bred dog, which costs about $250, shows that there is only a $100 difference -- not $600, as DeBakey would have us believe.

The different survival rates of shelter and purpose-bred animals also have an effect on true costs of those animals. A study done in Oregon revealed that 108 purpose-bred dogs are needed to have 100 survive at the end of the experiment. In contrast, 137 pound dogs are needed for 100 to live to the end. Since more pound dogs are needed, the cost is greater, not less, than purpose-bred animals.

Concerning the ban on using pound dogs, DeBakey says, "the sad result would be a serious curtailment or even elimination of research for which dogs are essential." No critically needed research will ever stop. This is simply an emotional statement to scare people into thinking their lives are in jeopardy without the use of shelter animals. Also, three countries, the World Health Organization and 11 states no longer use pound animals, yet their research continues.

The only real obstacle to using purpose-bred dogs instead of those from the pound is pocket money. Researchers do not want to part with the money spent on a slightly more expensive animal. They want to increase, not decrease, their salaries as much as possible.

Since pound animals are no longer used in Massachusetts, the demand for dogs from Harvard faculty decreased 50 percent. Thus, without an easy, never-ending supply of pets to use, researchers are more apt to use fewer lives. In fact, banning the use of pound animals may improve research by encouraging the reduction or termination of redundant or superfluous projects.

In an age when we are taking a closer, more critical look at our treatment of animals, this should certainly be our goal. -- Susan Wiedman The writer is director of Voices for Animals in Charlottesville.