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June 21, 2011

Federal Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Prevent the Theft and Abuse of Pets

Legislation would ban sale of dogs and cats to research institutions by disreputable Class B dealers

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States praises Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. and Chris Smith, R-N.J. for introducing the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2011 to finally put an end to animal dealers who round up dogs and cats—often stolen pets obtained through fraudulent means—and sell them for experimentation. The legislation, which was introduced with 23 original co-sponsors, would amend the Animal Welfare Act to make it illegal for Class B Dealers to sell random source dogs and cats to research institutions.

“Rounding up pets and funneling them into laboratories has been demonstrated time and again to result in substantial animal suffering,” said Andrew Rowan, Ph.D, chief scientific officer for The HSUS. “This dwindling practice has no place in 21st century society and results in bad science.  We commend Representatives Doyle and Smith for working to prevent America’s beloved family pets from ending up in research labs.”

Class B dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to sell animals to research facilities. Unlike Class A dealers, who breed animals for research, 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.

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 eight of these random source dealers currently operating, five of whom are under investigation by the USDA.  However, trying to prevent the notorious abuses of these last few is very labor-intensive for USDA and a sheer waste of taxpayer dollars. Every year, USDA spends an estimated $300,000 in enforcement of these remaining dealers, representing a serious drain on the agency’s resources, and forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a problem that has plagued pets and pet owners for decades.

Earlier this year, Floyd and Susan Martin, who did business as Chestnut Grove Kennel, and existed as the last Class B random source dealer in Pennsylvania, were indicted on federal charges for the “alleged unlawful procurement of hundreds of random sourced dogs” and “the subsequent resale of those dogs to medical research facilities.” If convicted, they face a jail sentence of up to 50 years and a fine of up to $1 million.

“Class B dealers have racked up an atrocious record of illegal activity and cruelty to animals,” said Rep. Doyle. “Allowing this failed program to continue is simply unacceptable.  That's why we're re-introducing the Pet Safety and Protection Act -- to shut down the Class B dealer disaster once and for all.”

“Class B dealers have routinely failed to meet basic Animal Welfare Act Standards and there is no sign they will ever improve,” added Rep. Smith. “Reputable research institutions do not use Class B dealers because of the serious problems associated with them and their troubled past.  Closing them down once and for all will give people greater confidence in our research programs and go a long way toward reducing animal cruelty.”

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. To learn more facts about Class B dealers, 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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