Congressmen Doyle and Smith Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Family Pets

May 13, 2021
Press Release

Washington, DC – U.S. Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) and 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 would prohibit “Class B” animal dealers from selling dogs and cats to researchers.

“Class B dealers notoriously abused the law to buy and sell dogs and cats, often through illegal means and with many of these defenseless creatures used for painful experimental procedures,” said Congressman Doyle. “We must permanently ban the sale of random source dogs and cats by Class B dealers before any more animals are unnecessarily hurt. That’s why we’ve reintroduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act – to end this cruel pipeline into laboratories once and for all.”

“Class B dealers routinely failed to meet even the most basic Animal Welfare Act standards—which is why NIH and other reputable research institutes did not use them,” said Rep. Smith. “While much progress has been made to prevent these dealers from exploiting and abusing animals, we must do more to put an end to the serious problems associated with Class B dealers and their troubled past. By closing them down once and for all, the Pet Safety and Protection Act will give people greater confidence in our research programs and go a long way toward ensuring that all animals are treated humanely.”

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 the dogs and cats that 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 the 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.

More than 10 years ago, the National Academies of Science concluded that Class B dealers were unnecessary and should not be used.  Congress has helped to halt the use of Class B dealers through the annual appropriations process, but that is a stop-gap and temporary measure. The Pet Safety and Protection Act would permanently prohibit researchers using Class B dealers, ensuring this dangerous pipeline stays shut down for good.