Research Animals - Sources Of Research Animals

dealers dogs class usda

Research animals are obtained by laboratories from animal breeders and brokers licensed by the USDA. These licenses fall into two types:

  • Class A—Breeders who sell animals that they have bred and raised on their own premises and who buy animals only to replenish their breeding stock
  • Class B—Breeders, dealers, brokers, and operators of auction sales that purchase and/or resell live or dead animals, often obtained from city or county animal shelters

Breeders that sell fewer than twenty-five dogs and/or cats per year that were born and raised on their own premises, for research, teaching, or testing purposes or to any research facility are exempt.

As of July 2004, the USDA reported that there were 4,117 Class A breeders and 1,176 Class B breeders/dealers/brokers in the United States. Note that not all of these licensees sell animals to research laboratories. Some sell animals to pet stores and other animal enterprises.

Lab animal suppliers advertise their animals in the Lab Animal Buyer's Guide, available on the Internet at The 2004 edition included more than 500 companies and more than 800 products and services. Animals available included frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, cats, dogs, ferrets, chickens, ducks, cattle, goats, sheep, swine, rabbits, nonhuman primates (monkeys, chimpanzees, etc.), birds, fish, opossums, woodchucks, exotic animals, invertebrates, and a wide assortment of rodents.

Purpose-Bred Animals

The vast majority of laboratory research animals are purpose-bred, meaning that they are born and raised under controlled conditions and may be genetically manipulated. Purpose-breeding of laboratory animals is becoming more and more common as researchers demand animals with particular genetic make-ups. For example, researchers investigating narcolepsy use dogs bred to be born with the condition.

As of 2005, the largest breeder and supplier of purpose-bred animals was Charles River Laboratories, headquartered in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

Random Source Animals

Live animals for research can also be purchased from random sources. For example, dogs and cats obtained from animal shelters are considered random-source animals. Researchers acquire these animals from dealers with USDA Class B licenses or directly from shelters. Class B dealers can acquire random source dogs and cats for resale, but only from the following sources:

  • Other USDA licensed dealers
  • State, county, or city-owned and operated animal pounds or shelters
  • Humane groups and contract pounds organized as legal entities under the laws of their state
  • People who have bred and raised the animals on their own premises

Class B dealers are prohibited from obtaining dogs and cats from private individuals who did not breed and raise the animal on their own premises.

The rules Class B dealers must follow when acquiring animals are primarily intended to prevent them from selling pets to research facilities. USDA regulations also require Class B dealers to hold live dogs and cats for specific time periods before reselling them, and the dealers TABLE 5.6
Holding periods required for dogs and cats held by USDA-licensed B dealers
SOURCE: "Licensed 'B' Dealer," in Random Source Dog and Cat Dealer Inspection Guide, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, April 2000, (accessed March 17, 2005)

IF the source is AND the dog/cat's age is THEN the holding period is
a private pound, contract pound or shelter any age 10 full days, not including the day of acquisition and the time in transit
a state, city, or county operated pound or shelter any age 5 full days, not including the day of acquisition and the time in transit
a private individual who bred and raised the dog/cat on his/her premise < or = 120 days 24 hours, not including the time in transit
a private individual who bred and raised the dog/cat on his/her premise >120 days 5 full days, not including the day of acquisition and the time in transit
another USDA licensed dealer or exhibitor who has already held the dog/cat for the required holding period any age 24 hours, not including the time in transit
another USDA licensed dealer or exhibitor who has not held the dog/cat for the required holding period any age 5 full days, not including the day of acquisition and the time in transit

have to keep records, including physical information about each animal (age, color, sex, species, and breed) and the names and addresses of the seller and buyer of each animal. (See Table 5.6.) This gives pet owners a chance to track down lost pets that were sold to Class B dealers by animal shelters. Random-source dealers are listed in the Lab Animal Buyer's Guide. Some animal protection groups also maintain lists of Class B dealers they believe sell random source dogs and cats to laboratories. For example, the Animal Welfare Institute's listing on its Web site as of May 2004 included the names and locations of seventeen dealers. Nearly all were located in Midwestern states.

Random-source animals are used in research where genetic diversity is important. According to the MISMR, random-source animals are primarily used in biomedical research on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, lung disorders, orthopedics, birth defects, hearing loss, and blindness. Dogs are the subject of choice for heart and kidney disease research. Cats are frequently used in research devoted to the central nervous system, strokes, and disorders of the brain, eyes, and ears. MISMR notes that use of these animals in research benefits not only human medicine but also veterinary medicine.

Random-source dogs and cats are far less expensive than those that are purpose-bred. According to information available on the MISMR Web site in 2005, the cost of a shelter dog or cat was $60–$200, compared to $400–$600 for a purpose-bred one. The site also claimed that less than 2% of the ten million animals that reside in shelters each year are used for medical research. The organization claims that these animals would be euthanized in the shelters anyway because of the pet overpopulation problem.

Animal welfare organizations disagree, however, noting that neither municipal animal shelters nor Class B dealers all follow the regulations. Many fail to keep animals for the assigned period of time, and dealers often do not keep detailed records of the animals they sell. Despite regulations of the industry, lost family pets do periodically become the subjects of experiments when they are not held for the entire waiting period. In addition, there has been much controversy over Class B dealers, some of whom have been known to steal pets from homes and yards. Welfarists and animal rights activists often criticize the NIH for funding research projects that use shelter dogs and cats. The NIH leaves source decisions to individual research institutions. Although some people are pushing for legislation to outlaw the use of shelter animals in medical research, MISMR argues that this would drive up the cost of research and costs to local communities that must house and euthanize unwanted animals. Those involved in the animal welfare and rights movement respond with evidence that more and more animal shelters are moving toward becoming "nokill"—meaning they will euthanize only in cases of severe illness or temperament problems but not because of overpopulation—so shelter animals will not necessarily be euthanized and may instead be adopted.


In August 2003 federal authorities raided Martin Creek Kennels in Williford, Arkansas, and confiscated more than 100 dogs. The facility had a USDA Class B license to purchase and resell animals. The raid resulted from undercover videotape obtained by animal protection group Last Chance for Animals (LCA). The videotape documented numerous cases of abuse and neglect at the facility and several incidences of dogs being shot to death and thrown into mass graves. LCA also accused the kennel of purchasing stolen pets from "bunchers." Bunchers are unscrupulous people that steal pets, pick up strays, and take in dogs and cats given away for free and sell them to Class B dealers. LCA claims that the kennel bought stolen pets for $10–$20 per dog and sold them using falsified paperwork to research laboratories for $250–$800 per dog.

According to the animal protection group Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Martin Creek Kennels had been in business for nearly twenty years and sold around 3,000 dogs per year to research laboratories. In February 2005 the owners of the kennel, C. C. and Patsy Baird and their grown daughters, Jeannette and Patricia, were fined $262,700 by the USDA and had their Class B license revoked permanently. It was the largest fine ever imposed by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The USDA reported that the Bairds settled the USDA civil suit rather than go to court. In February 2005 the USDA Web site posted the photos of dozens of the dogs seized from the kennel.

According to an article in the Daily American Republic, C. C. Baird was a frequent visitor to an animal auction held weekly at the Poplar Bluff Sale Barn in Poplar Bluff, Missouri (Jackie Harder, "Animal Control Officers Fear Someone Will Take C. C. Baird's Place at the Poplar Bluff Sale Barn," February 4, 2005). The article noted that animal control workers in Poplar Bluff had suspected for years that bunchers were stealing pets and picking up strays and free giveaway animals in the area and selling them to Baird at the auctions. However, Baird's paperwork always appeared to be in order when animal control officers checked it. One officer said, "It was frustrating to have to stand back and watch him drive off with the animals." The article reported that the U.S. Attorney's office in Little Rock, Arkansas, was considering filing criminal charges against the Bairds.

Because of cases like this, those in the animal rights and welfare community, as well as veterinarians, frequently warn against placing "free to good home" advertisements, fearing that the animals offered will end up in the hands of bunchers or Class B dealers.

Animals for Dissection

Animals used in dissection labs are usually purchased from biological supply companies. One of the largest is the Carolina Biological Supply Company of Burlington, North Carolina. Carolina sells a variety of preserved specimens for dissection, including earthworms, amphibians, sharks, fish, bats, mice, cats, mink, rabbits, cows, sheep, dogs, rats, pigs, and pig fetuses.

Animal welfare and conservation organizations are particularly critical of the use of wild-caught animals in dissection labs. The NEAVS said as of 2001 that approximately three million wild-caught frogs were sold each year for dissection purposes. This is troublesome because some feel it could threaten natural populations of these species. Welfarists worry that wild-caught animals might not be harvested, housed, and transported in a humane manner.

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almost 11 years ago

I know that my dog was stolen from my home and is being used for research.I wish some one could help me find her.I have had her since she was 6-weeks old.Her name is Mercedes.This is awful! I can not believe that a human can be so cruel as to steal her and torture her on top of that.However, the same thing has been done to me aswell.I, miss her so much and I, know she misses me.

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over 7 years ago

Are each animal control from each county mandTex to register Nd if so where do they register and is that public record

Thank you

330-575-7103. Ohio

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over 9 years ago

If my stolen german shepherd was brought there. Does the person have to submit something to show they are the dog's owner, or they just get the money and my dog is paying the price. How does this operation work? Please let me know.

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over 10 years ago


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