Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) announced that he and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) have reintroduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act, legislation to protect companion animals from illegal sale for use in laboratory experiments. The Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 1141) would prohibit “Class B” animal dealers from selling dogs and cats to researchers.
"Over their long history, Class B dealers have racked up an atrocious record of illegal activity and cruelty to animals,” Congressman Doyle said today. “This program has been an unmitigated disaster – and worst of all, it’s unnecessary. Congress should have shut it down years ago. That's why we're re-introducing the Pet Safety and Protection Act – to end the Class B dealer problem once and for all. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill to put an end to this industry and the waste of resources it entails, to ensure the integrity of scientific research, and to protect American families and their pets.”
“Class B dealers regularly failed to meet even the most basic Animal Welfare Act standards,” remarked Congressman Smith. “NIH and other reputable research institutes 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.”
Currently, two types of animal dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Class A (“purpose-bred”) dealers and Class B (“random source”) dealers. Class A dealers are highly regulated businesses that raise their own animals. Class B dealers, in contrast, routinely buy dogs and cats from a network of suppliers with murky backgrounds. Many of these suppliers obtain dogs and cats they sell to Class B dealers by stealing them – or by responding to “free to good home” advertisements and posing as individuals willing to provide a good home to a family pet. Class B dealers pay suppliers for each animal, creating enough of a financial incentive for them to steal pet dogs and cats from owners’ properties and then falsify records to keep their true origins unknown.
In addition, some Class B dealers have unofficial relationships with pounds, shelters, or “humane societies” to buy surplus animals. Although the law currently requires any stray animal to be held for at least 5 days at such facilities, it does not prevent pets from being kept out of sight, or transported to an out-of-state location for this time period, making it impossible for concerned pet owners to locate a beloved pet.
The 2006 HBO documentary “Dealing Dogs” illustrated the illegal and inhumane trade in stray animals and family pets, as well as the neglect and outright cruelty with which some Class B dealers treat these animals. This film contains disturbing video footage collected by an undercover investigator who worked in several Class B dealers’ facilities. Among the abuses documented in this film are overcrowded cages, rotten food, food contaminated with feces, frozen drinking water, dogs with serious untreated injuries and diseases, and live dogs caged with the carcasses of dead dogs. In addition, this investigation documented the beating, strangulation, and shooting of dogs by Class B dealers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars each year unsuccessfully trying to regulate Class B dealers, and it has acknowledged that it can't guarantee that dogs and cats are not being illegally acquired for use in experimental procedures. While only a couple of random source Class B dealers remain, they have a history of violations of the Animal Welfare Act and require USDA to expend resources and personnel on their oversight that could be better used elsewhere.
Animal Welfare Institute senior policy advisor Nancy Blaney urged legislators to pass the bill during this Congress, noting: “We greatly appreciate Rep. Doyle’s and Rep. Smith’s commitment to this issue. Without this bill, USDA will continue to waste valuable resources on the hyper-vigilance these dealers require. Moreover, without this bill, there is the continued danger that others may try to get into the business. Most researchers do not use Class B dealers to acquire dogs and cats, and it is time for the remainder who do to end their embarrassing association with them.”
The 110th Congress directed the National Academies of Science to examine the issue and determine whether the Class B dealer system should be continued. In May of 2009, the National Academies released its report on the Class B dealer system. The National Academies concluded that:
“Although random source dogs and cats represent a very small percentage of animals used in biomedical research, this small number is not commensurate with their potential value, and it is desirable to assure continued access to animals with random source qualities. This access can be accomplished with existing alternative mechanisms other than Class B dealers and can be assured with additional effort. The Committee thus determined that Class B dealers are not necessary for supplying dogs and cats for NIH-funded research.”
“The National Academies study puts to rest any remaining concerns about the desirability of eliminating the Class B dealer system,” Congressman Doyle stated shortly after the study was released. “If NIH doesn’t need Class B dealers, it’s highly unlikely any other legitimate researcher does.”