In what the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) hopes will be the death knell for this cruel cottage industry, a National Academy of Sciences Committee report released on May 29 and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded there is no scientific need to purchase dogs or cats from Class B dealers for NIH research.
The report describes a "complicated tangle of trade" in random-source animals, citing "existing loopholes whereby pets may still enter the research pipeline." The report further states that "...USDA could not offer assurances that pet theft does not occur, and agreed that such a crime is exceedingly difficult to prove, almost requiring an eyewitness. There are descriptions of thefts provided by informants in prison. ...Additionally, there are documented accounts of lost pets that have ended up in research institutions through Class B dealers."
The report also acknowledges that "random source dogs and cats used for research probably endure greater degrees of stress and distress compared to purpose-bred animals. This conclusion has implications not only for the welfare of random source animals but also for their overall reliability as research models."
Finally, "...the Committee could not reconcile the serious unresolved Class B compliance issues, and felt that these issues, as well as humane concerns, were major factors in the Committee’s final recommendations."
"The Committee concluded that alternative options are currently available to fill the majority of NIH needs for various types of research dogs and cats." Therefore, there is no excuse - scientific or otherwise - for the NIH to continue turning a blind eye to this notorious supply chain.
According to the USDA, there are 11 Class B dealers selling live dogs and cats for experimentation. Of these, one has a five-year license suspension, and seven are under investigation for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In addition, there are at least 20 investigations underway related to illegal activities uncovered during the traceback of records. The USDA spends about $300,000 each year regulating this small handful of dealers.
A summary of the report and a list of dealers are on AWI's website. For a copy of the full report, contact National Academies Press, 500 5th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242. To read the entire report online, click here.