(I got this from another group a long time ago)
Some 5 million family pets are reported missing annually. Based on pet theft reports filed with Action 81, Inc., In Defense of Animals, and others, it is conservatively estimated that approximately 1.5 to 2 million of these missing family pets are taken forcibly, or by deception, through so-called "Free to Good Home" ads.
Dogs and cats are sold to many different clients for many uses, including dog-fighting rings as fighters or as bait, to "puppy-mills" for breeding, as meat for human consumption, as prey for exotic animals, as fur for clothing or accessories, as protective guard dogs, or for cult rituals. However, the most consistent and highest-paying client is often the research industry. Hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs are used as laboratory subjects in universities and testing and research institutions every year. Research institutions prefer to experiment on animals that are accustomed to humans, as they tend to be docile and much easier to handle.
The Sale of Pound, Shelter and Humane Society Animals
Some pounds, shelters and humane societies may sell "surplus" dogs and cats to Class B dealers and/or research facilities--a practice commonly called "pound seizure." To date, only 13 states have outlawed pound seizure. They are: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. In those states where pound seizure has not been banned, it is up to each city or county (depending on whether a facility is city or county run) to decide whether or not to allow or mandate Pound Seizure.
Whether or not a state-wide ban on Pound Seizure exists, some pounds or shelters practice pound seizure illegally--some even acquiring pets illegally. There are known cases of family dogs and cats being picked up as "strays," being "laundered" through the pound, shelter or humane society system (by withholding them from view or taking them to an out-of-town facility to fulfill the required five-day holding period), and later sold to a dealer or research facility. Having a pound, shelter or humane society that practices pound seizure in your area means that every pet is worth money, and increases the chances of pet theft occurring in your community.
Animal Dealers and the USDA
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a division called Animal, Plant Health Inspection Service (APHI which is responsible for licensing and regulating animal dealers, animal exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and research facilities (which utilize animals) according to the regulations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is a set of laws which establish guidelines for the care and use of animals by animal dealers, research facilities, intermediate handlers, and exhibitors.
A subdivision of APHIS, called Regulatory Enforcement and Animal Care (REAC) is responsible for enforcing the AWA regulations by inspecting covered facilities, conducting investigations, imposing and collecting fines, and suspending/revoking the licenses/registrations of dealers and research facilities who are in violation of the AWA regulations.
In the case of animal dealers, these violations can include: failure to provide sufficient food, shelter and water for the animals, insufficient veterinary care, insufficient sanitation, overcrowding, not fulfilling the stipulated holding period, or inaccurate or incomplete recordkeeping. The recordkeeping regulations are particularly important, because maintaining accurate records of where an animal came from (acquisition) and to whom an animal was sold or traded (disposition) are the only ways trace an animal who may be a missing or stolen pet.
There are two types of animal dealers licensed by the USDA
1. Class A (or purpose-bred) dealers who breed and raise (mostly pure-bred) animals on their property. They commonly sell animals to pet stores, research institutions, and other Class A and Class B dealers.
2. Class B (or random-source) dealers who obtain a variety of (often mixed breed) dogs and/or cats from pounds, shelters, animal auctions or trade and sale days, and other Class A and B dealers. Class B dealers typically sell animals to research institutions, other Class B dealers, and for food and fur.
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Is your Pet Missing?
Look everywhere – around the house, in closed cupboards, closets etc. Check the yard, the neighborhood, go door-to-door. Comb the area within a two mile radius of your home. Pay particular attention to sheds, abandoned buildings, anywhere your pet could be hiding.
Go to animal shelters, humane societies and SPCAs with a photo of your pet. Visit the facilities once a day for at least 10 days. Remember: telephone calls are not enough. You must go in person if you want to be certain to identify your pet.
Place a lost-animal ad in all the local daily and weekly newspapers. Many local newspapers provide lost ads free of charge. Don't forget to check the "found animal" sections of these newspapers as well. Contact local radio and television stations. Many local stations provide "lost and found pet report" segments as a public service. Create a flyer with a picture of your pet. If possible, offer a reward of at least $300 to give pet thieves an incentive to return your pet. Post the flyers all over your neighborhood and beyond -- animals often wander away from the area surrounding their home. Also post the flyer in places with high visibility in your community, such as the grocery store, local veterinary offices, animal shelters, etc.Contact emergency veterinary clinics and other veterinary hospitals. Your pet may have been injured and taken to an emergency hospital or local veterinarian for treatment.
Talk to delivery persons who travel in your neighborhood on a regular basis. Your U.S. mail carrier, water delivery person, gas company employee, meter reader, etc., may have seen your pet and can be on the lookout for your animal as they travel through the area.Call the laboratory animal departments of universities and hospitals in you area. You can get these numbers from your local town hall or from the Yellow Pages. Describe your animal to the laboratory personnel.
In addition, go to these facilities in person with a photo of your animal to post in laboratory animal departments and in academic departments which include animal labs (i.e., most biological science and psychology departments). File a report with your local police department or sheriff's office. If you suspect that your animal has been stolen, report it immediately to the police. A police report will be useful for identification purposes when retrieving your pet and will prove helpful in court if a suspect is brought to trial. If the authorities are hesitant to prepare the report (which they usually are), remind them that pets by law are valuable property and their theft is either a felony or misdemeanor under all state laws. By law, the police must take action on your complaint. Be persistent in your search for your missing friend. Don't give up. There are many instances of cats and dogs being found after many months.
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Actions You Can Take to Protect Your Animal Companions
1. Always know where your dog or cat is. Treat your animal companion as you would a small child. Do not leave your animal companion outside unsupervised or off a leash. Do not leave your animal in your car unattended, or tied on the street while you slip into a store--not even "for just a second."
2. Keep a collar and ID tag on your animal companion at all times. Identification should include your name, address and current telephone number (day and evening, if possible). NOTE: Unscrupulous animal companion thieves will remove collars from stolen animals, but identification will help concerned dog wardens and humane society workers find you if your animal companion is lost. In addition, if your animal companion is stolen, a collar and ID tag found on a suspected thief's premises can provide evidence of theft for legal authorities.
3. Tattoo or microchip your animal companion for identification. Tattoo your animal companion on the rear inner leg, not the ear, as thieves or unscrupulous research labs may cut off the ear to eliminate the tattoo. Be sure to use a reputable tattoo service and register the number with your veterinarian or reliable service like the National Dog Registry (1-800-NDR-DOG). Microchips implanted under the animal companion's skin can also provide identification using a specialized scanner to read and display the information. One microchip supplier in California is AVID (1-909-480-7505). Contact your veterinarian or local dog and cat clubs for referrals of local tattooing and microchipping services.
4. Spay and neuter your animal companion. This reduces your animal's desire to stray and reduces the risk of your animal companion being stolen for breeding purposes. It also helps alleviate the animal companion overpopulation crisis.
5. Keep current photos of your animal companion. If your animal companion is missing or stolen, photographs are extremely helpful in creating missing-animal flyers and identifying and reclaiming your animal companion from a laboratory, shelter or individual.
6. Never give your animal companion away without first knowing as much as possible about any new adoptive home. If you must give your dog or cat up for adoption, do not use "Free to Good Home" ads, unless you are willing to thoroughly screen prospective adopters. To screen adopters, ask for references, including a driver's license number, telephone numbers, a place of business, and the name of a veterinarian if they already have a animal companion. NEVER release your animal before visiting the prospective adopter's home.
7. Call people who have advertised animal companions through "Free to Good Home" ads. Warn them about the dangers of animal companion thieves. Urge them to get references and conduct home visits with any potential adopters. Ask your newspaper to preface these ads with warnings about the risk of animal companion theft.
8. Set up a neighborhood watch to protect animal companions and property. These programs have been very effective in stopping neighborhood crime and can prevent animal companion theft as well. Ask your local police or sheriff's department for advice about creating a neighborhood watch. Then talk to your neighbors.
9. Find out what's going on in your community. Are animal groups or shelters educating the public about animal companion theft? Does your local pound legally sell animals to research labs? If so, animal companion thieves may be attracted to your area. Pounds that sell animals to research create conditions in which there is a market value for local animal companions. When bunchers can't find high-demand animals at pounds, they steal them off the street. Find out what facilities your pound sells animals to, so that you and others can check these facilities. Does your local pound or shelter have a spay/neuter program? If they do not, this pound is not responsibly managed. Bring these issues up at town or city meetings. You may be able to gain public support for a county ordinance banning the sale of pound animals for research, or requiring a spay/ neuter program.
10. Look in the "lost" sections of local newspapers and talk to your neighborhoods. If there is a preponderance of Huskies, Shepherds, Labs and their crossbreeds -- premium research dogs -- missing in your area, it is likely that animal companion theft is occurring.
11. Educate the public about animal companion theft. Send letters to the editors to your local newspapers. Inquire at television and radio stations about airing a public service announcement (PSA) about animal companion theft.
12. Find out what U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-licensed dealers and research institutions are in your area. Call the USDA regional office nearest you for a listing. Eastern (410)571-8692; Southeast (813)225-7690; West (916)857-6205.
13. Find out how your tax dollars are being spent by the research industry. Call the laboratory animal department of your local, USDA-licensed research institutions. Ask questions. What kind of animals do they use in research? What kinds of experiments do they conduct? Where do the animals come from? From what dealers do they purchase dogs and cats? Do they require proper documentation from these dealers? If not, why? Have they ever visited the facilities of dealers from which they buy animals? How can they assure the public that they are not purchasing stolen animal companions for painful experiments? Will they allow members of the public to tour their animal holding facilities in search of lost animal companions? If not, file a complaint with your city or town government, asking for local legislation to establish and enforce public access.
14. Write a letter to Ann Veneman, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14th and Independence SW, Washington, DC 20250. Urge her to enforce the laws against animal companion theft and punish animal dealers who violate the Animal Welfare Act
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