What is a Class B dealer?

Class B dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to acquire dogs and cats from “random sources” to sell them to universities and other research institutions for use in experiments. In contrast, Class A dealers can only sell animals they have bred themselves.

Where do Class B dealers get dogs and cats?

These dealers obtain dogs and cats from various "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 been documented acquiring lost, stray and "free to a good home" pets, and even pets from neighborhood backyards. After purchasing animals, the dealers typically hold them until they transport them to universities or other research institutions.

How many Class B dealers are in business and where are they located?

As of July 2014, there are five active Class B dealers of live, "random source" dogs and cats licensed to sell these animals to research facilities. While there are less than a half dozen of these dealers remaining and their numbers continue to dwindle, Class B dealers numbered in the hundreds in decades past. Currently, there are Class B dealers in two states: Michigan and Ohio.

How many dogs and cats are sold by Class B dealers?

During fiscal year 2007 (the most recent year for which the USDA provided information), 2,863 Class B dogs and 276 Class B cats were sold for research. At the time, it was estimated that the combined total of Class B dogs and cats used in research represented 3 percent of the total number of dogs and cats used in research.

Are Class B dog dealers regulated effectively? 

A May 2009 National Academies report, titled "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."

What are the animal welfare problems with Class B dealers?

The HSUS opposes all trafficking in pets for resale to laboratories. 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.

Why do some universities and other research institutions still purchase dogs and cats from Class B dealers?

Some institutions obtain “random source” dogs and cats from Class B dealers because the purchase price of these animals is typically less than Class A dogs and cats, who are “purpose-bred” (specifically bred to be sold to laboratories and used in research experiments). 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 pets.