Washington, D.C.-- The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) welcomes the reintroduction by Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) of the Pet Safety and Protection Act (H.R. 2224). 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 U.S. 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. Of the six dealers currently in operation, two are currently under investigation by the USDA. One dealer, now out of business, was indicted on numerous federal charges of mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy, all stemming from keeping fraudulent records regarding the source of the dogs it sold for experimental purposes.
"The Class B dealer program has been an unmitigated disaster," Rep. Doyle said. "It's failed abysmally in protecting animals from terrible abuse and theft. Congress ought to shut down this flawed, unnecessary program, and that's why we've reintroduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act."
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, NAS assessed whether there is a scientific need for 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, NIH is now phasing out the use of these dealers by its outside grant recipients. (NIH prohibited its intramural researchers from using these dealers two decades ago.)
The Pet Safety and Protection Act is essential to ensuring that there is a permanent end to this abuse-ridden pipeline. "Class B dealers have routinely failed to meet basic Animal Welfare Act Standards and there is no sign they will ever improve," remarked 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."
AWI President Cathy Liss urged legislators to pass the bill during this Congress, noting: "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."