Eight hundred medical school students from Harvard, B.U., and Tufts flooded into the State House's Gardner Auditorium yesterday for the public hearing on the much-publicized "pound" (animal-experment) bill.
Dr. Paul Dudley White, the famous heart specialist, and Dr. John F. Enders, Nobel Prize winner, were the two leading figures in the distinguished group of Massachusetts physician-researchers who spoke before the Legal Affairs Committee in favor of the bill.
The auditorium, with a purported capacity of 900 was filled to overflowing by students an hour before the proceedings actually began at 10:45 a.m. Capitol police were only able to reserve a few scattered seats for those in opposition to the bill.
White said that "Massachusetts is the laughing stock of the more enlightened states, because we have to fight to obtain experimental animals. Which is more important," he asked, "a beloved child in our community or a stray dog or cat about to be killed." The proposed bill would enable research institutions to obtain for experimental purposes stray dogs and cats which are doomed to die in pounds.
Dr. Enders named diphtheria, lockjaw, typhoid, and diabetes "as only some of the many diseases" that have been conquered with the aid of animal experimentation. He also cited the importance of monkeys in the research on polio virus.
Most of the students, who had been given the option by their schools either to attend the hearing or to go to classes, brought their own lunches so as not to lose their seats during the mid-day recess. They had to be restrained in their enthusiasm for their professors by Edward Besaulnier, chairman of the hearing.
Dr. Robert E. Gross, Ladd Professor of Surgery, demonstrated a mechanical heart and emphasized the importance of animal experimentation in developing the apparatus. Many of the physicians pointed out that at the present time, the state exterminates almost 160,000 stray animals a year, while only 16,000 of these would satisfy the requirements of Massachusetts researchers.
"In my 52 years of experimenting on animals at Harvard University," Dr. Alexander Forbes, professor of Physiology, emeritus, said, "I have never seen cruelty to an animal in excess of that which a man would sacrifice for a friend."