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November 7, 2006 > Another inconvenient truth

Another inconvenient truth

by Nancy Lyon

When you walk through animal shelters you see desperate lost animal flyers on the bulletin boards, a sad commentary of lost and much loved members of families, many stating children and seniors are grieving for their companions.

If you look at the dates on these posters, some are many months old - hope remains that somehow they are still alive that they will be returned home. And some of the lucky ones do go home – but what of the others who apparently disappear from the face of the earth? Where did they go? Did they run away? Always there’s the hope that they are being cared for by someone who has found them.

But unfortunately there is a dark side to where many missing companion animals have gone.

Based on pet theft reports filed with Action 81, In Defense of Animals, and others, Some 5 million family animals are reported missing annually and it is conservatively estimated that approximately 1.5 to 2 million of these missing animal family members are taken forcibly.

Wandering strays and free-roaming companion animals are often snatched from their yards or picked up off the streets by unscrupulous individuals known as “bunchers.” Bunchers are opportunistic criminals who make their living preying on unprotected animals. Many of these beloved family members have been acquired deceptively through found and "free to a good home" ads with a significant number taken from their guardian’s home or car.

What is the next step for the animals on this path of despair? Bunchers sell their victims to Class B dealers licensed agents who consistently sell companion animals from “random sources” to their highest-paying client - research institutions for use in biomedical research, testing and education procedures.

Hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs are used as laboratory subjects in universities and testing and research institutions every year. Research institutions prefer to experiment on animals that are accustomed to humans, as they tend to be docile and much easier to handle.

At Class B animal facilities there have been numerous documented cases of mistreatment, neglect, and other animal welfare violations. Dogs and cats are sold for not only medical research but these facilities can have many different clients including dog-fighting rings as fighters or as bait, to "puppy-mills" for breeding, as meat for human consumption, as prey for exotic animals, as fur for clothing or accessories, as protective guard dogs, or for cult rituals.

The Humane Society of the United States says that in the shadowy world of Class B dog and cat dealers, an animal’s life can be harsh and unrelenting. They may suffer from crowded and unsanitary conditions, poor food, and insufficient water. Documentation has included the beating, shooting, and malnourishment of animals.

Veterinary care may be non-existent and they may not even survive their time in Class B dealer’s hands. Class B dealers are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which mandates minimum care and handling standards for animals in a variety of environments. However, these dealers put profits before pooches, and are regularly cited for violating the AWA and have long been a cause for concern for many.

Add to this the fact that current regulations for Class B dealers are clearly not enough. The USDA is charged with oversight of Class B dealers but it does not have the staff or funding to keep tabs on them. While documentation regarding the source of an animal is required before resale, current regulations make it all too easy for Class B dealers to falsify records if they want to. It’s not an easy paper trail to follow.

It is estimated that only 10 percent of lost companion animals ever find their homes again – their fate unknown.

As responsible guardians what can you do to make sure that your animal companions remain safe at home?

  • Keep your them indoors, especially when you are not at home.

  • Identify your animal with a collar & current tag, microchip and/or tattoo.

  • Be aware of strangers in the neighborhood, and report anything unusual to the police.

  • Padlock gates and make sure people can't access animals over fences.

  • Keep him on a leash whenever you go outside.

  • Make neighbors aware of the problem of companion animal theft.

  • Know where your companion animals are at all times. Free roaming means greater access for bunchers.

  • Spay or neuter your animal, they are less likely to roam.

And here are some things not to do:

  • Don't let your animal companion roam free in the neighborhood.

  • Don't let your animal companion be visible from the street.

  • Don’t leave your animal companions unattended or unsupervised if you have workman on the property. Gates or doors can be left open and accidents happen.

  • Never leave animal companions outside a store or in the car to wait for you.

Lost your animal friend? Find out what you can at:
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