The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced that it will no longer allow researchers who use federal funds to obtain cats from Class B dealers beginning in October 2012, with similar measures to follow for dogs in 2015.
Class B dealers are USDA licensed animal brokers who find and sell dogs and cats to schools and research institutions for a profit. Their methods of acquisition range from going to breeders or shelters, answering classified ads, and in some cases stealing pets who are left unattended. Class B dealers also buy animals from “bunchers” who collect animals from random sources.
Even though research facilities that receive federal funds will not be able to get animals from Class B dealers, these dealers can still continue to work with privately funded institutions.
In 2009, the National Academies released a report in response to a request from Congress that concluded that these dealers are not necessary. The report stated that “…testimony provided to the Committee by USDA officials made it clear that despite new enforcement guidelines and intensified inspection efforts, not all origins of animals are or can be traced. The USDA simply cannot assure that stolen or lost pets will not enter research laboratories via the Class B dealer system.”
In 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) also released a report citing public concern over the use of lost and stolen pets in research. The report highlighted numerous problems with these dealers and reiterated the National Academies findings regarding the inability of the USDA and APHIS, which oversees inspections, to properly regulate them, or accurately trace all of the animals who they sell. Additionally, the USDA estimates that it spends approximately $300,000 annually on Class B dealer oversight, but its not really sure because APHIS doesn’t “have a mechanism in place to determine these costs.” It’s apparently hard to keep track of what you’re not keeping track of in the first place.
Sign the petition asking Congress to pass the Pet Safety and Protection Act, which will shut down Class B dealers for good. While it won’t help all animals used in research, it will help ensure that some pets get a second chance.
Photo credit: stephskardal