The Internet is a remarkable tool for animal protection; indeed, The HSUS has more than 1 million online advocates, and humanesociety.org is an invaluable resource for people who want information about animal advocacy or who want to take action to help animals. But the Internet is also a tool and an organizing platform for cockfighters, puppy millers, and others who cause harm to animals. And it’s also a haven for hucksters who scheme to deceive the public or cause false alarm.
In the last week or two, I’ve received a number of alarmed inquiries from animal advocates about ibuystrays.com, which purports a site that tells people they can turn in dogs and cats and be paid for the animals, who will in turn be sold into medical research. We believe it’s a hoax—possibly even a well-intentioned satire meant to draw attention to a serious issue. I’ve asked Dr. Martin Stephens, our vice president of Animal Research Issues, to comment. Here’s his summary.
The HSUS has received many inquiries from constituents concerned about the website ibuystrays.com, which purportedly seeks to purchase unwanted dogs and cats from animal shelters and owners and then sell these animals to research laboratories. As many of our constituents have guessed, this site is a hoax. Two popular websites that debunk urban legends and similar hoaxes have provided assessments of this site; see those analyses at snopes.com and about.com.
Nonetheless, the issue raised by this website is real. Every year, about a dozen individuals known as Class B dealers round up dogs or cats and sell these unfortunate animals to research laboratories. Regrettably, these dealers are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act to traffic in “random source” animals—those obtained from flea markets, trade day sales, some animal control facilities, and totally unregulated middlemen known as “bunchers.” (We know of no examples of such dealers acquiring dogs and cats via web-based solicitations.) Because Class B dealers have a more than 40-year history of violating the AWA by acquiring animals under fraudulent means (including pet theft) and by housing and transporting animals under substandard conditions, The HSUS is seeking to ban these dealers from trafficking in random source dogs and cats.
The HSUS is lobbying hard for this ban, which has passed the House and Senate as part of the Farm Bill. The House and Senate versions of the bill will be reconciled with each other and we are hopeful that the Class B dealer ban will be retained when the final bill is sent to the President for his signature. The provision would make it illegal for research facilities to purchase random source dogs and cats from Class B dealers. This will remove the financial incentive for these dealers to round up such animals, whether via the Internet or other means.
Please take action to help us ensure passage of the Class B dealer provision of the Farm Bill.