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October 24, 2013

Fact Sheet: Pets Used in Experiments

Q: What is a Class B dealer?
A:A "Class B" dealer is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is defined as a dealer whose business includes the purchase and/or resale of any animal. Class B dealers that sell dogs and cats to research institutions for use in experiments get these animals from "random sources" and are called "Class B dealers of random source dogs and cats." In contrast, Class A dealers can only sell animals that they have bred themselves.

Q: Where do Class B dealers get dogs and cats?
A: Class B dealers obtain dogs and cats from "random sources", including auctions, flea markets, and animal shelters. Some Class B dealers have also been known to obtain animals from unregulated middlemen known as "bunchers," who have acquired lost, stray, and "free to a good home" dogs and cats, and even pets from their owners' backyards. After purchasing animals, Class B dealers typically hold them until they transport them to research institutions.

Q: How many Class B dealers are in business?
A: As of September 2013, there are six active Class B dealers of live, "random source" dogs and cats licensed to sell these animals to research facilities. Of these six, three are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. While there are less than a dozen of these dealers remaining and their numbers continue to dwindle, Class B dealers numbered in the hundreds in decades past. View the map of Class B dealer locations »

Q: How many dogs and cats are purchased and sold by Class B dealers?
A: During Fiscal Year 2007, 2,863 Class B dogs and 276 Class B cats were sold for research according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The combined total of Class B dogs and cats used in research represents only 3 percent of the total number of dogs and cats used in research and 0.3 percent of all animals reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for research purposes.

Q: How widespread is the use of Class B dealers among research institutions?
A: The HSUS, in partnership with the Animal Welfare Institute, conducted a survey in 2007 of the approximately 1200 universities and other research institutions registered with the USDA to conduct animal-based research. Of the 212 institutions that responded, 203 (96 percent) indicated they do not purchase "random source" dogs and cats from Class B dealers and 9 (4%) said they do. These results show that a very small minority of research institutions are still purchasing random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers. According to a survey by the American Association Veterinary Medical Colleges, at least 19 of the nation's 28 vet schools do not use live, random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers. Thus, even in veterinary education, more than half the schools are not purchasing animals from Class B operations.

Q: Are Class B dealers regulated effectively?
A: A May 2009 National Academies report, entitled "Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats for Research," states the following:

"...in the more than forty years since the inception of the AWA (Animal Welfare Act), the USDA/APHIS (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has been unable to completely enforce the AWA in regard to activities of Class B dealers and that there are documented accounts of lost pets that have ended up in research institutions through Class B dealers. For example, in June 2005, the University of Minnesota received a dog from a Class B dealer that through a microchip scan was identified as a missing pet named "Echo." Recent inspection reports for one Class B dealer revealed that two cats were purchased from a private individual that upon trace back investigation admitted that they were illegally acquired "strays."

Q: What are the animal welfare problems with Class B dealers?
A: The HSUS opposes all trafficking in pets for resale to experimentation laboratories. In addition, there have been a number of cases of egregious violations of the Animal Welfare Act by Class B dealers over the years—including inadequate provision of veterinary care, food and water; inhumane handling; fraudulent paperwork that is required to prove an animal is not a stolen pet; and outright trafficking in stolen pets. In 2006, the HBO documentary "Dealing Dogs" exposed the atrocious conditions at Martin Creek Kennels—a Class B dealer facility run by C.C. Baird—through an undercover investigation. In fact, the original reason for the passage of the Animal Welfare Act—to stop the theft of pets for research—was triggered by a police raid on a Class B dealer, revealing similarly horrific animal care and treatment. While the numbers of these dealers have dwindled, little appears to have changed for the better in these unsavory operations in the intervening years.

Q: Why do some universities still purchase random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers?
A: Some schools obtain random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers because the purchase price of these animals is typically less than Class A, purpose bred dogs and cats. However, there is evidence that random source animals actually cost more to use, given the added costs associated with their quarantine, treatment, and higher mortality stemming from their unknown and variable medical backgrounds as pets and strays. Nevertheless, the HSUS strongly feels there is simply no justification for conducting experimentation on one's pet.

Q: What can I do to help end the use of Class B dealers?
A: Check out our Top Ten Ways to Help Animals in Labs page for the most up-to-date information on ways to help pets used in experiments and other animals in laboratories.

Learn more about animals used in experiments at

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