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October 23, 2009

The HSUS Applauds Congress for Introducing Bill to Prevent Pet Theft, Abuse

Legislation Introduced to Ban Sale of 'Random Source' Dogs and Cats to Research Institutions

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States praises U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., for introducing the Pet Safety and Protection Act to finally put an end to the practice of animal dealers rounding up "random source" dogs and cats — often family pets — and selling them for experimentation.

The House bill has nearly 30 original cosponsors, and the Senate version was introduced on Wednesday with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. as original cosponsors. The bills would amend the Animal Welfare Act to make it illegal for Class B Dealers to sell random source dogs and cats to research institutions.

"For decades these unscrupulous dealers have rounded up pets and funneled them into laboratories," said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of The HSUS. "This dwindling industry has no place in 21st century science or society, and we commend Senator Akaka and Representative Doyle for working to protect America's pets by ending the deeply flawed and unnecessary Class B dealer system."

Class B dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell animals to research facilities. Unlike Class A dealers, who are breeders, Class B dealers purchase or acquire the animals from "random sources," such as auctions, flea markets or "bunchers" — unlicensed individuals who acquire dogs and cats by theft, misrepresentation (e.g. responding to "free to a good home" ads) or other questionable means such as rounding up strays. It is inherently impossible for the USDA to enforce regulations regarding the true source of each animal sold by Class B dealers, notwithstanding the added scrutiny of these dealers by the agency and its expenditure of considerable resources to try to ensure compliance.

Last Congress, both the U.S. House and Senate approved provisions in the Farm Bill to put an end to Class B dealers selling random source dogs and cats for experimentation, but the provision was stripped from the final version bill in a conference committee. The vast majority of research laboratories have stopped using Class B dealers, who have a history of failing to comply with the modest requirements of the AWA. There are only 10 of these dealers left, seven of whom are under investigation by the USDA — a steep decrease from the hundreds that existed in previous decades.

"We must stop stray and stolen dogs and cats from being illegally sold to research facilities," said Sen. Akaka. "This bill does not impair or impede research. It will end the fraudulent and unethical practices of certain dealers and the unnecessary suffering of dogs and cats in their care." 

"Class B dealers have a long and sordid history of inhumane and illegal treatment of animals," said Rep. Doyle. "That's why I've reintroduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, and I hope that Congress will enact it into law in the coming months."

A National Academy of Sciences report released in May 2009 concluded that Class B dealers are not necessary to provide random source dogs and cats for research. The report came 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 stated 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 HSUS is also urging the approximately 50 research institutions that currently purchase random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers to immediately pursue alternative options.

To see a timeline of the five-decade history of this tragic issue dating back to a landmark 1966 exposé in Life magazine, click here.

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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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