Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) welcomes the reintroduction by Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Christopher Smith (R-NJ) of the Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 2849). In order to protect companion animals from illegal sale for use in laboratory experiments, this bill would prohibit unscrupulous Class B dealers from selling dogs and cats to researchers.
By law, Class B dealers are supposed to acquire the animals they sell only from other dealers, pounds, and individuals who have bred and raised the animals themselves. However, these dealers and their middleman suppliers (called "bunchers") are notorious for flouting the Animal Welfare Act; obtaining animals through fraud, deception, and outright theft; and falsifying their records. They may keep the animals in horrendous conditions. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has acknowledged that it can’t guarantee that dogs and cats are not being illegally acquired for use in experimental procedures.
"Class B dealers have racked up an atrocious record of illegal activity and cruelty to animals,” said Congressman Doyle. "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 reintroducing the Pet Safety and Protection Act—to end the Class B dealer debacle once and for all."
In May 2009, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report entitled Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research. At the request of Congress, the NAS assessed whether there is a scientific need for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant recipients to purchase dogs and cats from Class B dealers. It found that there is no such need and that animals with similar qualities are available from alternative sources. The report stated: "The Committee therefore determined Class B dealers are not necessary as providers of random source animals for NIH-related research." In response to this report and continued congressional concern, the NIH has barred the use of these dealers by its outside grant recipients. The NIH prohibited its intramural researchers from using these dealers two decades ago.
"Class B dealers have routinely failed to meet basic Animal Welfare Act standards and there is no sign they will ever improve," said Rep. Smith. "Reputable research institutes do not use Class B dog and cat 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."
The Pet Safety and Protection Act is essential to ensuring that there is a permanent end to this abuse-ridden pipeline.
"Without this bill, the USDA will continue to waste valuable resources on the hyper-vigilance these dealers require,” said AWI senior policy advisor Nancy Blaney. “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."
Amey Owen, AWI, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 446-2128