Joyce Briggs of ACC&D to leave the cast of “Waiting for Godot” after 18 years
PORTLAND, Oregon––Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs president Joyce Briggs might be accused of burying the lead in the May 2, 2023 edition of the ACC&D electronic newsletter.
“First, we want to let you know that our 2021-22 Biennial Report is available,” Briggs said, putting the work of ACC&D up front.
18 years earns parole
The headline news for the animal advocacy community came a paragraph later.
“I have decided to step down from my role as president at the end of 2023,” said Briggs, 66.
Briggs, at that point, will have been the first fulltime ACC&D president for 18 years, long enough to have earned parole for almost anything that does not carry the death penalty.
Some readers, for whom the 60-year wait for practical, affordable alternatives to surgical spay/neuter seems to have continued for longer than the wait for Godot, may have listened for the splashes of lab rats leaving a sinking project.
But none came.
The most recent three years of IRS Form 990 filings for ACC&D suggest it may be in better financial shape now than ever before.
Waiting since 1953
And the wait for the Samuel Beckett dramatic character Godot actually began at the Theatre de Babylone in Paris, France, on January 5, 1953.
That was about 10 years before pioneering hormonal contraceptive researcher Wolfgang Jochle introduced the first contraceptive pill for dogs, marketed in Europe for many years beginning in 1963 and introduced to the U.S. in 1974.
“The treatments were very effective,” Jochle told the ACC&D founding conference in 2004, in Breckenridge, Colorado, “but the side effects were unexpected. A catastrophic epidemic of pyometra forced the sponsor to withdraw the product and it never appeared again. It became clear that the knowledge base about female canine reproduction on which all this development hinged was grossly insufficient. As a consequence, American small animal practitioners lost confidence in hormone-based contraception.”
Jochle nonetheless continued to research hormonally based contraceptive methods, and other contraceptive approaches, to the end of his life.
His work, together with that of Esther Mechler, who beginning in 1993 hosted the SpayUSA conferences from which ACC&D emerged, and now heads Marion’s Dream, promoting the “Feline Fix by Five Months” concept, was the real beginning of ACC&D as the primary forum and facilitator for nonsurgical cat and dog contraceptive research.
Briggs became the first fulltime ACC&D director in 2004, following five years as senior director of marketing and public relations for the American Humane Association animal protection division, and five-plus years as executive director of PetSmart Charities.
Before that, Briggs spent 15 years in commercial marketing, for clients in the food, candy, and weight loss industries, and with the Franklin Mint.
Short time for would-be successors to apply
Briggs with her announcement of impending retirement further announced a May 30, 2023 deadline for applicants to succeed her as president, and a May 15, 2023 deadline for applications for a post as operations and project coordinator, “to begin as early as June 2023.”
While those deadlines are coming right up, applicants do have significantly longer lead time for preparing resumés than the crew of the Titanic had for launching lifeboats.
Dead ends for everything except the vas deferens (sperm tube)
ACC&D initially explored the hormonal contraceptive approach to animal contraception pioneered by Jochle; chemosterilants used to block the release of sperm from male animals, an approach pioneered by the Blue Cross of India under the name Talsur in 1990; and immunocontraceptives, which use the body’s own immune system to thwart contraception, the method used by the late Jay Kirkpatrick to develop PZP, a contraceptive drug widely used in wild horses and other hoofed animals.
Quite a few dog and cat contraceptive products investigated by ACC&D have hit icebergs and vanished beneath the waves during Briggs’ tenure.
Most notoriously, a Talsur-like sterilant called Neutersol, meant to be injected into male dogs’ testicles, was introduced in 2005; but just as Talsur did, Neutersol tended to produce unacceptably painful testicular swelling.
After the initial Neutersol developers gave up on it, ACC&D itself tried to revive the concept with a Mexican-made product marketed as Esterilsol, sold in the U.S. as Zeuterin.
But the need for non-surgical methods of quickly, easily, inexpensively sterilizing dogs and cats remains.
As Briggs herself summarized in the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report, “Many spay/neuter programs halted surgeries at the start of COVID-19, and one study estimated that U.S. spay/neuter programs alone may have had a deficit of 2.7 million surgeries in 2020 and 2021. As veterinary hospitals have restarted operations, the rising crisis of veterinary labor shortages affect capacity, as well.
“As the veterinary field emerges from the shadow of COVID-19,” Briggs said, “it is clear that veterinary capacity remains impacted by the pandemic and related veterinary labor shortages in the U.S. and many other countries.
“The reality of sterilization surgery shortfalls during these challenging first years of the decade underscores the urgency to advance non-surgical options to prevent unwanted litters.”
The most successful contraceptive advanced by ACC&D currently on the market is Suprelorin, an Australian product “first approved and marketed in 2007 for contraception in male dogs,” according to the ACC&D web site.
“Regulatory approval of Suprelorin for fertility suppression has since expanded to include male cats and prepubertal female dogs, as well as ferrets,” the ACC&D web site says.
“We’re pleased that [use of] Suprelorin has expanded to over 40 countries during this time,” says the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report. “While this implant provides temporary suppression of fertility and is licensed in most locations for male dogs only, it is normalizing the concept of choice to many pet owners and is an example of a successful product in this space.”
Cat product trials move to development
Continues the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report, “The past two years have, if anything, deepened our enthusiasm about a technology being researched with funding support from the Michelson Found Animals Foundation/ Michelson Prize & Grants (MFAF/MPG) program.”
The Michelson organizations in 2008 offered a $25 million reward, still unclaimed, to anyone who could produce a safe, effective single-dose alternative to spay/neuter surgery. Michelson has also funded several attempts to develop such a technology.
“Two years of breeding trials in treated female adult cats, “with continued positive results through year three based on hormone levels,” the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report says, have “transitioned from research into a product development plan, working with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration on a path toward regulatory approval.
Might work in dogs, too
“ACC&D is helping [the Michelson project] to identify how shelter-adopted cats might get early access to this technology while helping with a field trial.”
Adds the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report, “Studies in dogs began in 2022.”
(For a much more detailed discussion of the sterilization approach in question, see New approach to cat/dog contraception explained in simple terms.)
Three more contenders
“That is not all,” the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report promises. “ACC&D keeps in close touch with Epivara, a start-up formed by University of Illinois Professor Chemyong Jay Ko, who has another approach to an injectable sterilant, feasible for young puppies and kittens as early as a few days after birth.
“Studies conducted in 2021-2022 show promise as we enter 2023.”
In addition, “Funding for new approaches continues,” the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report says, mentioning that “Tufts University researcher Sandra Ayres’ study in female cats will target gonadal cells with a cytotoxin delivered via intramuscular injection,” while “Kristen Navara’s lab at the University of Georgia will test an oral vaccine in male cats to reduce reproductive hormones.
Spay First! is also in the chase
“As exciting as research is, though, technologies described above won’t be commercially available for some years,” the ACC&D 2021-2022 Biennial Report cautions.
Nor is the ACC&D-sponsored contraceptive research the only boat afloat.
The Oklahoma City-based organization Spay First!, already manufacturing an injectable contraceptive called GonaCon EQ “for the management of feral and sanctuary equine populations only,” has described to ANIMALS 24-7 promising results in developing variants for use with dogs and cats, after giving up on attempts to perfect the use of calcium chloride as a chemosterilant.
Initial results with calcium chloride were positive, but only one veterinarian, the late Eric Jaynes, was consistently able to manage the highly technical sequence of steps needed to avoid complications.
600 Million reasons not to wait for Alex Pacheco
The dog and cat contraceptive development project most closely resembling Waiting for Godot is directed by Alex Pacheco, a cofounder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in 1981 but not associated with either PETA since 1996, nor with any other animal charity of note within the present century.
Doing business as 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You, Pacheco, 65, has raised funds since 2009 with the promise that somehow, despite lacking any scientific credentials, laboratory facilities, identifiable scientists or veterinarians on staff, or biologically plausible theory as to how it might be done, he is on the brink of developing a one-dose “Spay and Neuter Cookie” to permanently sterilize either female or male dogs and cats.
Didn’t try to win $10,000 offered for proof of concept
During this time Pacheco has not produced even a scrap of evidence that he is either doing or seriously attempting to do any such thing, not even when Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi offered him $10,000 in cash if he could provide proof of relevant activity, or even a credible concept of how a “Spay and Neuter Cookie” might be made.
(See “600 Million” reasons to toss Alex Pacheco’s alleged spay/neuter cookies, Pseudo-science & the Alex Pacheco “Spay & Neuter” Cookie, Alex Pacheco of “600 Million” says he was gunner on a boat with no guns, Steve Hindi & SHARK up the ante & call Alex Pacheco’s bluff, Alex Pacheco serves stale “Spay & Neuter Cookies” again for Christmas, and Spay/neuter popcorn? It’s as real as Alex Pacheco’s s/n cookies!)
Godot does not exist. Neither does Pacheco’s cookie.
Announced Pacheco in a December 27, 2022 emailed fundraising appeal, “Our largest study ever is under way with over 30 new rescued Pilot Pups! In about 3 months, we should have new data in the form of results from the current group of 30 Pilot Pups.
“Pilot Pups are stray animals who we have rescued from the streets,” Pacheco claimed. “We’ve nicknamed them Pilot Pups because we include them in our pilot studies to develop the One-Dose Spay and Neuter Cookie.”
More than four months later, Pacheco has emailed several more appeals, but without another word about Pilot Pups.
Godot, of course, does not ever appear in Waiting for Godot. The point of Beckett’s play is the Godot may not even exist, yet his faithful followers keep wasting their lives in hope.
“No goodbyes yet.”
Concluded Joyce Briggs in her May 2, 2023 announcement, “I’ll continue working in the animal welfare field, but I want to spend more time on another area of passion related to dog welfare and wellbeing.
“And please, no goodbyes yet,” Briggs said. “We’ll send another e-newsletter soon with some wonderful ACC&D project updates. And I have a lot more to get done in 2023!”