Quit funding random source cat studies in 2012
WASHINGTON D.C.––The National Institutes of Health on October 1, 2014 discontinued funding experiments using dogs obtained from “random sources,” meaning pounds, other animal shelters, and bunchers commonly called “Class B dealers.”
The NIH cessation of funding for research “is in response to a 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report which concluded that cats and dogs acquired from [random sources] were not critical for biomedical research, and that using them could damage the reputation of the research enterprise with the public,” reported Science online news editor David Grimm.
That the NIH would cease funding research using random source dogs had been expected since February 8, 2012, when the NIH published notice that grantees would 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. This is also now the NIH policy pertaining to dogs.
The NIH projected in 2012 that use of random source dogs would be prohibited after 2015, but apparently moved the cut-off date forward because less than 1.3% of the 70,000-odd dogs used in federally funded research come from random sources, according to the most recent available data.
USDA “Class B dealers” are federally licensed re-sellers who market animals whom they did not themselves breed. These animals have been acquired from shelters, auctions, small non-federally licensed breeders, or subcontractors who gather dogs for re-sale, including for-profit animal control contractors.
“Class A dealers” are breeders. The “Class A” and “Class 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 “Class B” dealers today are in the pet industry. Only about half a dozen “Class B” dealers were known to be 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. By 2007 the “Class B” traffic to labs had declined to 230 cats and 946 dogs.
70 years of conflict
The phase-out of NIH funding for laboratory use of random source animals ends 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 $30 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 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.