Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)

Random Source Dog and Cat Dealers Selling Former Pet

By Crystal Miller-Spiegel
Random source animal dealers are characters we often read about and worry about. Their business exists because they obtain dogs and cats—many who are former pets—from sources such as pounds and shelters, auctions, and private citizens, and in turn, sell them to laboratories.

The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires animal dealers to be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as either Class A or Class B dealers. Class A dealers breed animals for sale to research and teaching laboratories, while Class B dealers typically buy and resell animals, but they may also breed animals.

There are two types of Class B dealers that supply live and dead dogs and cats to education: those that obtain live animals from random sources, and biological supply companies that sell animal cadavers.

Brief History

The AWA was established primarily as a result of public outrage over the cruel and unregulated activities of random source animal dealers. In 1965, New York Congressman Joseph Y. Resnick introduced a federal bill in response to the heartbreaking story of Pepper, a Dalmatian who was stolen, sold to a research facility, and killed,[1] coupled with a 1966 Life Magazine exposé entitled "Concentration Camps for Dogs," which described and depicted dogs in horrible conditions on an unregulated animal dealer's property.

Resnick's bill influenced the creation of the 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, now known as the AWA.[2] This was the first piece of federal legislation in the U.S. that established standards for the care, transport, and acquisition of animals used in research facilities (including the use of animals for teaching purposes at colleges and universities), and it also required the regulation of dealers who sold animals to such facilities.[3]

Stolen Pets and Shady Deals

The biomedical community denies that cats and dogs are still being stolen for sale to research and teaching institutions.[4], [5] However, Class B random source animal dealers continue to be fined by the USDA for violating the AWA by obtaining animals through deception.[6], [7] Recognizing that lost or stolen companion animals are possibly being sold to research labs, USDA even advises citizens who have lost a dog to contact local animal dealers and research facilities.[8]

A Class B random source dealer may not legally sell or donate a random source dog or cat without providing the recipient with the proper paperwork, which must be available for each animal to assure legal acquisition, including an assurance that the pound or person was notified that the animal could be used in research or education. Since 1993, USDA has been performing trace-backs (i.e., following identification/acquisition records back to the animals' original sources) to assess whether or not dogs and cats are legally acquired.[9] Traceback investigations have led to dealers being cited for AWA violations, and USDA actually admits that it cannot guarantee against stolen pets being acquired by Class B random source dealers because it is often difficult to prove that they are stolen.[10]

In 2005, a dog named Echo was reportedly stolen from his backyard in Arkansas and sold to the University of Minnesota by a Missouri-based Class B random source animal dealer.[11] Though not a requirement, the University scanned incoming dogs for microchips, and Echo was found to have a microchip that traced him to his home in Arkansas. Fortunately, Echo made it home, but the number of other dogs and cats who are not as lucky remains unknown.

Through an investigation by AAVS and its education division, Animalearn, it was discovered that many animals who are transferred from shelters to dealers or universities are listed as spayed or neutered on sales transaction documents, and/or have animal control paperwork showing that they were taken in as strays.

Dogs and cats sold by Class B dealers are cheaper to buy than those bred and sold by Class A dealers.[12], [13] However, according to the University of Michigan Medical School, "nonconditioned dogs [such as those obtained from random sources and who are not vaccinated or tested for parasites] often have an unknown health status; thus, no guarantees are provided for such animals."[14] These animals are usually used in a teaching lab shortly after their delivery to the school and are subsequently killed, or they are killed upon arrival at the school for use in dissection labs.

Fortunately, the number of random source animal dealers in the U.S. has declined dramatically over the last few decades from approximately 200 in the 1970s and 1980s, and 100 in the 1990s, to just 10 today.

Animalearn's investigation led to the following conclusions about Class B random source animal dealers who sell to the colleges and universities we surveyed. (Animals sold for research or teaching were not included in the investigation.):

Major universities purchase dogs and cats from random source animal dealers
Of the schools surveyed by Animalearn, Michigan State University; Ohio State University; Oklahoma State University; Purdue; University of Florida, Gainesville; University of Georgia, Athens; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Minnesota, St. Paul; and University of Oklahoma have purchased dogs and cats from Class B random source animal dealers.

The majority of random source animal dealers in the U.S. have recently violated the Animal Welfare Act
Seven of the 10 current Class B random source animal dealers have been cited for AWA violations. (Another dealer not included in this count but which also has recent AWA violations is Triple C Farms. As of this year, it is no longer a licensed Class B dealer.) Class B dealer violations include failure to provide appropriate and necessary veterinary care, keeping animals in damaged and /or filthy cages, document falsification, acquiring animals from illegal sources, and inhumane transport, among others.

C&C Kennels had its dealer's license suspended as a result of numerous AWA violations[15] but is still counted as a current Class B dealer. Whale Branch Animal Services, Inc. was recently licensed to sell animals from random sources,[16] but we do not have information about potential AWA violations.

Random source animal dealers reap significant profits from the sale of cats and dogs
As can be seen in the chart for Class B random source animal dealers, gross sales figures over a three-year period range from $77,800 to $742,148.

Dogs obtained by one random source animal dealer are often sold/transferred to other dealers and sold to universities
Hodgins Kennels obtains dogs from Class B random source dealer R&R Research. Cheri-Hill Kennel & Supply obtains live dogs from local animal control pounds and subsequently sells or otherwise transfers the dogs to R&R Research. In some cases, dogs obtained from animal control facilities spend an extraordinary amount of time at Cheri-Hill. One rather extreme example is an adult male pitbull-hound mix who was released from Mecosta County Animal Control to Cheri-Hill on January 11, 2007. Almost one year later, on December 31, 2007, the dog was sold/transferred to R&R Research and sold to the University of Florida, where he arrived on January 10, 2008 after being driven over 1,000 miles in a truck.

In another case, an adult male beagle was released from Midland County Animal Control in Michigan on May 20, 2005 to Cheri-Hill Kennel & Supply. Cheri-Hill then sold the beagle five months later to R&R Research, which then sold the dog to the University of Florida in November 2005.

In addition, LBL Kennels sells animals acquired from other random source animal dealers, including Mountain Top Kennels.

Live dogs and cats can be transported hundreds and thousands of miles away from the state they lived in and sold to universities
Published studies have documented that dogs become extremely stressed during transport, which can lead to physiological changes and medical conditions that are detrimental to the animals' welfare and which can confound their use in experiments.[17], [18] In order for Hodgins Kennels to deliver 92 dogs to the University of Florida for use in veterinary medical training from 2005 to January 2008, the dogs were driven by truck for over 1,000 miles from Michigan to Florida. Based upon USDA documents, these dogs were driven along with 44 dogs purchased from R&R Research.

Many random source animal dealers acquire live animals from local pounds or shelters, either for free or at low cost
Some dealers also provide services to local shelters as part of a deal to acquire live animals. For example, R&R Research removed dead animals from the Montcalm County Animal Shelter in Michigan and received salable live animals as payment for this service.[19] Because of years of public outrage, however, the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners ended the 30-year relationship between R&R Research and the county animal shelter by voting to not renew its five-year contract with R&R in April 2009.[20]

Cheri-Hill Kennel & Supply also has an agreement with the Osceola County shelter in Reed City, Michigan through which it disposes of animals euthanized at the shelter in exchange for live shelter animals, who can be sold to research and teaching facilities.[21]


As shown, there are a number of schools that purchase live dogs and cats from Class B random source dealers who have repeatedly violated humane care standards under the AWA and/or obtained animals from illegal sources. Additionally, in several cases, animals originally obtained cheaply or freely from animal shelters are held for a significant period of time at dealer facilities, transferred among dealers, and/or shipped out of state, sometimes over 1,000 miles away. Studies show that dogs obtained from random sources can harbor infections and suffer stress during transport, which are significant animal welfare concerns as well as confounding factors that can negatively affect experiments. Rather than supporting these few-remaining dubious dealers, AAVS and Animalearn encourage schools to reevaluate their curricula and invest in humane and effective alternatives to the harmful use of live cats and dogs.


[1] Orlans, F.B., Beauchamp, T.L., Dresser, R., Morton, D.B., and Gluck, J.P. (1998). Where Should Research Scientists Get Their Dogs? In F.B. Orlans, T.L. Beauchamp, R. Dresser, D.B. Morton, and J.P. Gluck (Eds.), The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical Choice (pp. 289-304). New York: Oxford University Press.
[3] Laboratory Animal Welfare Act. Pub. L. 89-544. (24 August 1966). Retrieved September 29, 2008, from http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/legislat/pl89544.htm.
[4] Michigan Society for Medical Research. (Undated). The Use of Pound Animals in Biomedical Research. Retrieved September 29, 2008, from http://www.mismr.org/educational/pound.html.
[5] Reitman, J. (July 2000). From the Leash to the Laboratory. The Atlantic Monthly, 286:17-21. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/2000/07/reitman.htm.
[6] Ibid.
[7] See, e.g., United States Department of Agriculture. (January 3, 2001). Iowa Animal Dealer Faces USDA Animal Welfare Charges. Retrieved August 18, 2008, from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/news/2001/01/SHONKA.HTM.
[8] United States Department of Agriculture. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal Care. (September 1997). Safeguarding Pets. Retrieved August 18, 2008, from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/safepet.html.
[9] United States Department of Agriculture. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal Care. (September 2008). Animal Care Annual Report of Activities: Fiscal Year 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2008, from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_welfare/content/printable_version/2007_AC_Report.pdf.
[10] Committee on Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats for Research; National Research Council. (2009). Scientific and Humane Issues in the Use of Random Source Dogs and Cats. National Academies Press: Washington, DC. Retrieved June 1, 2009, from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12641.html.
[11] Wilson, A. and Porter, S. (October 20, 2005). Why is This Dog Smiling? Fayetteville Free Weekly.
[12] See supra note 4.
[13] See supra note 1.
[14] Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor. (Undated). Canine Receiving, Quarantine, and Conditioning Protocol. Retrieved on September 3, 2008, from http://www.ulam.umich.edu/sops/Quarantine%20Dog%208-05.pdf.
[15] United States Department of Agriculture. Consent Decision and Order regarding Henry Lee Cooper (Respondent). (August 26, 2008). AWA Docket No. 07-0181. Retrieved on December 16, 2008 from http://www.usda.gov/da/oaljdecisions/AWA-07-0181_080827.pdf.
[16] See United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Welfare. (January 9. 2009). License and Registration List, Dealers. Retrieved on February 7, 2009, from http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/efoia/downloads/reports/B_cert_holders.txt.
[17] Meunier, L.D. (2006). Selection, Acclimation, Training, and Preparation of Dogs for the Research Setting. ILAR Journal, 47(4):326-347.
[18] Swallow, J., Anderson, D., Buckwell, A.C., Harris, T., Hawkins, P., Kirkwood, J., et al. (2005). Guidance on the Transport of Laboratory Animals: Report of the Transport Working Group Established by the Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA). Laboratory Animals, 39:1-39.
[19] Ogg, A. (January 26, 2009). Montcalm County studies its contract with animal research supplier; takes heat from community. The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved January 28, 2009, from http://www.mlive.com/news/grandrapids/index.ssf/2009/01/montcalm_county_studies_its_co.html.
[20] Jeltema, R. (April 27, 2009). County Ends Its Contract with R&R. The Daily News. Retrieved April 27, 2009, from http://www.thedailynews.cc/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=2&ArticleID=2694.
[21] Barber, S. (October 2, 2008). Not All Happily Ever After. Cadillac News. Retrieved November 17, 2008, from http://www.cadillacnews.com/articles/2007/10/04/news/news02.txt

AV Magazine | Spring/Summer 2009
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