NIH announces end of funding for buying cats from Class B dealers

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From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

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WASHINGTON D.C.–The National Institutes of Health on February 8,  2012 published notice that NIH grantees will be prohibited after October 1, 2012 “from using NIH funds to procure cats from USDA Class B dealers.  The procurement of cats may only be from USDA Class A dealers or other approved legal sources,”  the NIH said.

A similar notice pertaining to the acquisition of dogs is to take effect in 2015.

“USDA Class B dealers” are federally licensed dealers who sell animals whom they did not breed themselves.  Called “random source” animals,  these animals may be acquired from shelters,  auctions,  small non-federally licensed breeders,  or “bunchers,”  including for-profit animal control contractors.

“Class A dealers” are breeders.  The Class A and B distinctions were created by the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966,  which was in 1971 expanded into the present Animal Welfare Act.

Most Class A and B dealers today are in the pet industry.  Only 10 Class B dealers were still selling cats and dogs to laboratories as of publication of the most recent USDA annual enforcement report.  The ten dealers sold 230 cats and 946 dogs to labs–a shadow of the traffic circa 30 years ago.

More than 300 Class B dealers supplied 74,259 cats to labs in 1974;  dog sales peaked at 211,104 in 1979.  The phase-out of NIH funding for laboratory use of random source animals will end more than 70 years of conflict with the humane community,  begun with the creation of the NIH itself by the Public Health Service Act of 1944.

Granting $2.8 million to researchers in 1945,  the NIH by 1965 was granting nearly $1 billion a year–a 30,000% increase– and now grants more than $31 billion per year.

While the NIH funded experimentation on animals,  the allied but officially unaffiliated National Society for Medical Research pushed for state laws that obliged pounds to surrender unclaimed cats and dogs to laboratories.  The American Humane Association and American SPCA initially opposed the “pound seizure” laws, arguing that they would dissuade people from bringing animals to shelters,  but reversed positions as the numbers of homeless animals killed in U.S. shelters soared from circa two million a year in the 1930s to upward of 13 million by 1950.

Disillusioned,  former ASPCA volunteer Christine Stevens in 1952 formed the Animal Welfare Institute to continue the fight against pound seizure.  Former AHA publicist Fred Meyer and former ASPCA secretary Helen Jones founded the Humane Society of the U.S. in 1954,  also initially to fight against pound seizure.  Jones went on to form the National Catholic Animal Welfare Society in 1959,  renaming it the International Society for Animal Rights in 1977.

Except where pound seizure laws were in effect,  shelters mostly continued to refuse to sell cats and dogs to labs.  That expanded the opportunities for bunchers,  who typically provided animal control service to small towns at nominal cost,  making a profit through lab sales. Some bunchers became notorious for trading in stolen pets.  Humane societies in larger communities often took animal control contracts at much less than the cost of providing the service,  to keep the contracts away from lab suppliers.

The Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 was adopted in response to a series of exposés initiated by nationally syndicated journalist Ann Cottrell Free in 1959,  culminating in a February 1966 Life magazine photo essay by Stan Wayman that generated more than 60,000 letters to Congress.  Christine Stevens helped to inform both investigations,  and lobbied for more than 35 bills to reform the random source animal procurement system before the 1966 act passed.

“We are pleased with the prompt implementation date,”  of the phase-out of NIH funding for acquisition of cats from Class B dealers,  “and wish the [phase-out of NIH funding for acquisition of] dogs could be sooner,”  said Cathy Liss,  Stevens’ assistant for nearly 30 years and president of AWI since Stevens’ death in 2002,  at age 84.

“Support is still needed for the Pet Safety and Protection Act,”  an Animal Welfare Act amendment long sought by AWI,  “as a means to stop the sale of Class B dogs and cats for testing,  teaching and non-NIH-funded research,” Liss added.

Said the NIH announcement,  “This transition plan is in accordance with the recommendations of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research [Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats in Research (2009)].  In FY2008,  the NIH Appropriations language asked the NIH to ‘seek an independent review by a nationally recognized panel of experts of the use of Class B dogs and cats in federally supported research to determine how frequently such animals are used in NIH research and to propose recommendations outlining the parameters of such use,  if determined to be necessary.'”

The outcome,  a National Academy of Sciences study,  “concluded that continued access to animals [for biomedical research] can be accomplished with existing alternative mechanisms other than Class B dealers,”  the NIH said.

Merritt Clifton
P.O. Box 960 | Clinton, WA 98236
Telephone: 360-579-2505
Cell: 360-969-0450
Fax: 360-579-2575



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