Many readers know that the issue of random source “Class B” dog and cat dealers is one that our founders confronted in the earliest days of The HSUS. We’ve consistently worked through the years to put an end to the practice of dealers rounding up dogs and cats from random sources – whether flea markets, animal shelters, auctions, animal thieves or even pet owners -- and selling them to research laboratories. It’s been a long, frustrating and difficult slog to stop this mischief and abuse.
But as with so many issues we deal with, persistence pays dividends, and today marks a major milestone. As of October 1, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of biomedical research in the world, will no longer fund research that involves dogs from random source Class B dealers. A similar policy regarding cats was adopted in 2012. We thank NIH for its work to institute this policy and we welcome this step forward. We also thank the many other organizations who devoted their energies to achieving this important milestone, including Last Chance for Animals and the Animal Welfare Institute.
The NIH decision followed a 2009 report released by the National Academy of Sciences that determined that Class B dealers are unnecessary for federally-funded research and that the regulations for these dealers simply can’t ensure that people’s pets won’t end up in labs. It was work by animal advocates, the introduction of federal legislation on the subject, and a request from Congress that led to the formal study of this issue – as also happened with the finding by the Institute of Medicine that chimpanzees were no longer necessary for biomedical research. That finding also led to a dramatic shift in NIH policy.
There was a time in the 1960s when as many as two million animals languished in the random source pipeline. Then, after passage of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966, there were more than 200 registered Class B dealers in the 1970s and 1980s. But careful scientists don’t associate with these dealers, and the campaigning and exposes led by animal advocates weakened the dealers and shut off some of their sales routes. I am very pleased to share that we recently learned that the number of random source Class B dog and cat dealers currently in the United States has dropped to three, one of whom is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The drop in numbers came because these Class B dealers again and again were demonstrated to be a disreputable, dishonest group of operators, peddling animals that would not be reliable subjects for scientific experiments. I am amazed that some universities continue to deal with these unscrupulous animal dealers, including, as of last year, Georgia Regents University. The HSUS uncovered that fact during an investigation, and GRU soon terminated its relationship with any random source Class B dealers. GRU must still end its deeply troubling dental experiments on dogs, and it is time that all other universities adopt a policy against doing business with these Class B dealers. But for today—let’s take time to celebrate this victory for the animals.