AWI Quarterly

Random Source Dog and Cat Dealers Under the Microscope

ALTHOUGH NO ACTION WAS TAKEN on the Pet Safety and Protection Act in the last Congress, the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill and the FARM bill were adopted; both include language regarding random source Class B dealers who sell dogs and cats for experimentation.

They call for an independent review by a panel of experts to determine how frequently animals sold by Class B dealers are used, and make recommendations regarding such use. In addition, the Agriculture Committee leadership in both the House and Senate called for a Government Accountability Office study on the subject.

In response to Congress's call for action, the National Academies Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) formed a committee to "address the use of Class B dogs and cats in research funded by the National Institutes of Health." The 10-member committee representing a broad spectrum of individuals, from vocal opponents of Class B dealers to scientists who purchase and use such animals, is expected to issue its report this spring. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been tasked by Congress to review any recommendations proposed and report how they may be implemented to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Most of the committee's deliberations have been private, but during two half-day public sessions, an array of people spoke, including Cathy Liss of the Animal Welfare Institute. Liss provided a statement, showed footage from dealer premises, presented extensive documentation and answered questions based on her 28 years of random source dealer experience.

Two representatives from a licensed Class A dealer facility (a breeder of purpose-bred animals), gave an impressive presentation describing their ability to provide a wide variety of animals and services to the research industry. The breeding facility is able to meet the research demands for dogs and adapt as these needs change. Unlike random source dogs, the health status and genetic background of Class A animals is known.

Another detailed presentation was given by a genetic expert on cats from the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity. He described how to breed cats to ensure genetic diversity, emphasizing that it can in fact be done.

The USDA's Animal Care staff gave two separate presentations and has submitted data to the committee. One chart notes that from November 2007 to November 2008, 2,863 dogs and 267 cats were sold by Class B dealers to research facilities. Currently, just 11 such dealers remain. Compared to historical figures, these numbers clearly represent a dying industry.

Recently, Animal Care has revised the manner in which it conducts tracebacks intended to assess the accuracy of dealer records identifying from whom they purchase their dogs and cats.

Tracebacks are an extensive and costly process, yet they cannot provide assurance that the dealers' transactions involving animals were legal. A significant loophole in the AWA is that any person who claims to have bred and raised a dog or cat can sell the animal for profit. Dealers can exploit this loophole knowing it is virtually impossible to disprove their claim.

The suggested machinations to tighten controls and provide oversight of Class B dealers are mind boggling. Based on the evidence provided, it seems inconceivable that the committee can justify a research need on scientific grounds to use any dogs and cats obtained from these dealers. While the vast majority of researchers get their animals from other sources, it is time for the foot-draggers to follow suit.

Dogs at a Class B dealer facility.

Lions on the Brink?

"Raffi" was rescued (and photographed) by the Born Free Foundation from a cage atop a bar in the Canary Islands. He now lives happily on 5 acres at the Shamwari Private Game reserve in South Africa.

If you want to be in the killing club then you've got to kill a lion. Safari Club International, an organization dedicated to promoting the killing of wild animals for sport, has the lion listed on a number of its hunting awards. The lion is one of the "Dangerous Game of Africa," the "African 29," the "Cats of the World," and the grand slam "Africa Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo). Safari Club International's magazine is replete with stories about lion hunts in which hunters hang bait from tree limbs in what one author called "the perfect setup" for an easy ambush and kill. Another author rates the lion as the most dangerous of the Africa Big Five and "perhaps the most difficult of all Africa's great prizes." He contends, "Most parks in Africa hold good numbers of lions, so there need be no concern over the species' survival."

In reality, the future looks bleak for the African lion (Panthera Leo) of west and central Africa, based on the results of a workshop held in Cameroon in June 2001. The recently published proceedings from the meeting highlight the pressures placed on these fragmented lion populations and the need to protect them immediately. One participant at the meeting noted that the population estimates of between 1,500 and 2,000 lions "in the entire West African region was considered as a shock."

The "information exchange" on "Status and Needs for Conservation of Lions in West and Central Africa" reveals that in west and central Africa, lions in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon are threatened by poachers, loss of habitat (especially for conversion of land to agriculture and forest cutting for timber), slaughter for the use of their parts in traditional medicines, and trophy hunting.

Roughly 30,000 lions remain in the wild.  Individual populations are small isolated, and decreasing.

The situation seems dire in some parts of southern Africa as well. Researchers Chris and Tilde Stewart in Zambia claim that in the northeastern part of the country, "numbers are critically low and they probably have no future here." Little population data apparently exists for the rest of the country. In Botswana, the Director of Wildlife placed an immediate ban on all hunting of lions in February 2001, as a precautionary measure to prevent further decline of lions there. The temporary ban was praised by conservationists but assailed by trophy hunters.

Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation has stressed the need to respond to the findings of the Cameroon workshop as a matter of urgency. "This latest lion news must serve as a wake up call to all conservationists. Unless we take concerted action to reduce poaching, prevent further habitat loss, stop trade in lion parts and eliminate trophy hunting this serious situation will soon become a crisis."



Nine Charged with Illegal Trade in Exotic Cats:
Tigers, Leopards, and Other Big Cats Appear to Have Been Killed for Trophies

Following a lengthy investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a series of indictments have been issued against individuals in Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri for trafficking in protected tigers and leopards. A couple of the individuals involved are licensed as exhibitors under the Animal Welfare Act. Apparently, those charged were buying and killing tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed cats, and black bears with the intention of introducing their meat and skins into the lucrative animal parts trade.

At this point only one individual has been sentenced. Woody Thompson, Jr., owner of the Willow Lake Sportsman's Club in Three Rivers, Michigan, pled guilty to brokering the interstate sale of three tiger skins. He was sentenced to six months of home detention, two years probation, a $2,000 fine, and he was ordered to pay $28,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Save the Tiger Fund."

More indictments are expected soon.

Whistlestop Tour Unites Soldiers in the Fight Against Animal Factories

Community buildings across the Midwest filled with farmers and concerned citizens in early December when Friends of Rural America and Illinois Stewardship Alliance organized a whistlestop tour through Iowa and Illinois for Waterkeeper Alliance Senior Attorney Nicolette Hahn and Southeast Representative Rick Dove. AWI's Farm Animal Advisor, Diane Halverson, organized a Minnesota whistlestop for Waterkeeper Alliance Founder and President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speaks about the cruelty and environmental dangers of factory farming at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. (Doug McCrae/Faribault Daily News)

The tour galvanized various groups to fight corporate hog factories and led to massive press attention, including the Omaha World Herald and Des Moines Register. The St. Paul Pioneer Press proclaimed "Factory farms face threat of legal action;" while in Northfield, Minnesota, the Northfield News' headline read: "Kennedy: 'Day of reckoning coming.'" In Red Wing, Minnesota, the Red Wing Republican Eagle proclaimed "Kennedy warns audience of factory farms." The goal of the tour was to warn people living in regions burdened by animal factories about their dangers, identify citizens in need of legal support in their fight against factories, and provide details of Waterkeeper's legal actions against Smithfield Foods, Inc., the world's largest hog raiser and processor.

Waterkeeper Alliance has filed multiple legal actions against Smithfield under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (the federal solid and hazardous waste law), and North Carolina state law. RICO is a powerful tool to rein in outlaw industries. One of the themes of the RICO complaint is that Smithfield's operation is funded by its illegal pollution-based profits. In violating environmental laws, which is an intended part of its business strategy, it is unlawfully shifting the cost of handling its pollution to the American public.

The tour culminated with Mr. Kennedy's stirring speech to an overflow crowd, including a dozen state legislators, attorneys from Minnesota's Office of Attorney General, family farmers, public interest activists, and interested citizens from seven states, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota on December 7. Preceding the meeting, AWI organized a press conference that included Waterkeeper Alliance, AWI and environmental, public health, and family farm activists, and a reception for Minnesota citizens who suffer from living in the shadow of animal factory pollution, stench and cruelty and who have organized to fight industrial farming.

Following are excerpts from Mr. Kennedy's presentation:

"Instead of raising hogs on farms they shoehorn thousands of animals into a building where they live in unspeakable misery in tiny confinement crates. They live without straw bedding, without rooting opportunities, without sunshine, without the social interactions that are critical to the happiness of these animals.

"What polluters do is make themselves rich by making other people poor. They raise standards of living for themselves by lowering quality of life for everybody else. And they do that by escaping the discipline of the free market, by forcing the public to pay part of their costs of production.

"I want to make one last point and it's probably the most important point, but I think it takes a higher level of understanding: the most important issue that we're dealing with here is not the environmental democracy issue but the issue of how we treat these some level, we begin treating these sentient beings with such unspeakable cruelty that it has to come back and hurt us and it's going to destroy our humanity.

"I'm going to close with a proverb from the Lakota people, appropriated to some extent by the environmental movement, where they said 'We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'

If we don't return to them something roughly equivalent to what we received, they have a right to ask us some very difficult questions....Thank you for joining us in this fistfight. As long as we don't give up, we can never lose."

Not Just GRASPing at Straws

Arguing that "every local extinction is a loss to humanity, a loss to the local community and a hole torn in the ecology of the planet," the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has undertaken an ambitious new venture to save great apes across the globe: the Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP).

Across Africa and Asia, great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) survive in 23 countries. But that survival is under constant assault as a result of war, deforestation, mining, capture of live animals for sale, conversion of forestlands for agriculture, and poaching for bushmeat. The billion-dollar-a-year international commerce in bushmeat has particularly dire implications for these primates. Their meat is not only sold locally and in city centers but is illegally exported for sale in western cities. Recently, a Nigerian couple was arrested for selling bushmeat illegally in London.

The GRASP team will establish survival plans in each great ape range country in an effort to equip wildlife law enforcement officers appropriately, preserve great ape habitat, and educate local people who live with this wildlife about the benefits of ecotourism focusing on great apes.

Dr. Eve Abe, formerly with the Uganda Wildlife Authority and now a co-director of GRASP's technical operations, noted, "Wildlife tourism is one of the mainstays of Uganda's economy and mountain gorillas are certainly the biggest draw, closely followed by chimpanzees. Uganda has pioneered the sharing of revenues from great ape tourism with local communities, and thousands of families now benefit directly from the presence of their gorilla and chimpanzee neighbors."

As UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Topfer, said, "The clock is standing at one minute to midnight for the Great Apes." But with the technical and financial resources that come through the collaborative Great Apes Survival Project, the clock may be stopped just long enough to save them.

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