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Documentary Exposes Animal Abuse

Courtesy Last Chance for Animals

Animals in the care of “Class B dealers”—businesses licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to sell dogs and cats to research facilities—often live in deplorable conditions. And though some facilities are regularly cited for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, those citations don’t appear to carry much punitive weight: Many of these businesses remain in operation.

Dealers purchase or acquire the animals from auctions, day trades, flea markets, and “bunchers”—an unregulated group who acquire animals from random sources and have even been known to steal animals, capture strays, and prey on pets in free-to-good-home ads. Bunchers pass the animals on to Class B dealers, who then sell them to research facilities for profit. This long line of exchanges makes it difficult for the USDA to pinpoint the real source of every dog and cat—and thus difficult for the agency to enforce its own regulations.

An HBO documentary called Dealing Dogs, which premiered in February 2006, shines a spotlight on the plight of the animals suffering in this system. Based on an investigation by Last Chance for Animals, the film includes undercover footage of Martin Creek Kennel in Arkansas, one of the largest Class B dealers in the United States. Recorded by a man who called himself “Pete” and worked undercover hosing kennels for five months so he could expose the facility, the footage shows dogs being beaten and shot, dogs suffering from malnutrition and disease, and corpses of dogs who’ve been butchered for their organs.

After “Pete” and filmmakers Tom Simon and Sarah Teale shared the results of their investigation with federal authorities, Martin Creek Kennel closed for good last year. Owner C.C. Baird lost his license in February and was ordered to pay a record fine of more than $260,000.

The documentary has also produced results on the public awareness front; viewers are now seeking more information about ending this inhumane animal trade. And thanks to a new bill proposed in Congress, there may be new hope for progress. If passed, the Pet Safety and Protection Act (S. 451/H.R. 5229), introduced in the Senate by Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and in the House by Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Phil English (R-PA), will ensure that research facilities obtain dogs and cats legally—through avenues other than random-source Class B dealers.

If you would like to help end this terrible practice, please call your U.S. Senators and urge them to cosponsor the Pet Safety and Protection Act. You can reach your senators by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. Learn more about Class B dealers. Learn more about Dealing Dogs.

Stephanie Edwards is the Outreach Coordinator for the Animal Research Issues section of The Humane Society of the United States.

 

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