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May 29, 2009

Class B Dealer System Unnecessary and Unenforceable, Says National Academies Report

The HSUS Applauds Findings on Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States hails a National Academies report released Friday, which concludes that Class B dealers — whose operating licenses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture allow them to round up dogs and cats from animal shelters, auctions, private individuals and other "random sources," and then sell them for experimentation — are not necessary to provide random source dogs and cats for research.

The report comes in response to a request by Congress through the National Institutes of Health for a critical evaluation of the need to use random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers in NIH-funded research. The report states that, "…testimony provided to the Committee by USDA officials made it clear that despite new enforcement guidelines and intensified inspection efforts, not all origins of animals are or can be traced. The USDA simply cannot assure that stolen or lost pets will not enter research laboratories via the Class B dealer system."

The findings in the report should provide momentum in Congress to eliminate Class B dealers. Legislation expected to be reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., will prohibit Class B dealers from selling random source dogs and cats to research facilities. In the last Congress, both the House and Senate approved amendments to ban Class B dealers, but the provisions were stripped in the final version of the Farm Bill.

The committee "concludes that Class B dealers are not necessary for supplying these animals and describes alternative methods through which random source dogs and cats may be acquired for appropriate research purposes," identifying Class A dealers (who sell dogs and cats bred specifically for the purpose of research), NIH-supported Resource and Research Development, the NIH Request for Proposal mechanism and donation programs among viable alternatives.

"The HSUS highly commends the National Academies report and appreciates the hard work of the expert committee that produced it," said Martin Stephens, Ph.D., HSUS vice president of animal research issues. "Forty years of Class B dealers rounding up pets and funneling them into laboratories is too long. This dwindling industry has no place in 21st century science or society."

The HSUS is urging research institutions that currently purchase random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers, such as The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, Auburn University in Alabama and Masonic Medical Research Laboratory in New York, to pursue alternative options. Further, The HSUS calls on Congress to swiftly enact the Pet Safety and Protection Act once introduced, to end the deeply flawed and unnecessary Class B dealer system.

Facts

  • Undercover investigators with animal protection organizations have documented Class B dealers buying pets from "bunchers" (unlicensed dealers who have stolen animals from owners' yards, cars and farms) and misrepresenting themselves when responding to "free to good home" ads and "adopting" animals from animal shelters. 
  • In addition, investigators have documented Class B dealers abusing the animals before selling them to research facilities. The USDA has repeatedly documented the failure of Class B dealers to comply with the minimum requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, including even the most basic requirements for food, water, shelter and veterinary care for the animals in their possession.
  • The USDA spends a disproportionate amount of time and resources trying to track the nefarious activities of Class B dealers, but the agency's oversight system is inherently incapable of ensuring compliance. Agency "trace backs" involve reviewing dealers' paperwork and calling phone numbers provided by the dealers themselves to determine the source of each animal (relying on an honor system for people with a track record of dishonesty).

Timeline

  • 2009: The National Academies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research releases report, "Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research," finding that Class B dealers are not necessary for research institutions to obtain random source dogs and cats. There are currently 11 Class B dealers registered with the USDA, two of whom are under investigation.
  • 2008: The National Academies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research forms an expert committee to address the use of Class B dealer-acquired dogs and cats in research funded by the National Institutes of Health.
  • November 2007 – November 2008: Class B dealers sell a total of about 3,000 random source dogs and cats to research facilities.
  • 2007 – 2008: In June 2007, language requesting the formation of an expert committee to study whether random source cats and dogs obtained by Class B dealers are necessary for research is included in the Senate Fiscal Year 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee report. In July, the House approves a ban on the use of random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers in its Farm Bill, and the Senate follows suit in December, but study language is substituted in the final version of the Farm Bill in May 2008.
  • 2006: An HSUS survey of about 1,200 USDA-registered research institutions indicates that 96 percent of the 192 respondents do not purchase random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers. According to a survey by the American Association of 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.
  • 1970s-1980s: Hundreds of Class B dealers sell tens of thousands of random source dogs and cats per year to research.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org. 

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