Preventing Pet Theft for Cruel Purposes

Boxer dog in rear seat of car
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Organized pet thieves steal cats and dogs for two main purposes—to use as bait in dogfighting and to sell to laboratories through B dealers. Because pet theft is illegal, it is difficult to estimate the number of animals involved, but it is believed to be in the tens of thousands annually.

How Are Cats and Dogs Stolen?

Cats and dogs can be stolen from front yards, backyards, cars, streets, or sidewalks when the guardian goes into a store and leaves the dog tied up outside.

Another popular way to steal cats and dogs is to answer "free to a good home" ads. The thief answers the ad, pretending to want to adopt the animal. Later, the animal is sold to a laboratory or used as bait in dogfighting. To prevent pet theft and for other reasons, it is important to always charge an adoption fee and to never give an animal away to a stranger for free. Even though the animal was given away for free, obtaining the animal in this way, under false pretenses, can be considered theft by deception which is a crime.

B Dealers — Selling Animals to Laboratories

"B Dealers" are animal dealers licensed under the Animal Welfare Act (7 U.S.C. §2131) to sell dogs and cats commercially, including to laboratories. The regulations adopted under the AWA can be found at 9 C.F.R. 1.1, where "Class 'B' Licensee" is defined as a dealer "whose business includes the purchase and/or resale of any animal. This term includes brokers, and operators of an auction sale, as such individuals negotiate or arrange for the purchase, sale, or transport of animals in commerce." Class "A" Licensees are breeders, while Class "C" Licensees are exhibitors. "B" dealers are "random source" dealers who do not breed animals themselves.

To prevent fraud and pet theft, "B" dealers are allowed to obtain dogs and cats only from other licensed dealers and from animal pounds or shelters. Under 9 C.F.R. § 2.132, "B" dealers are not allowed to obtained animals "by use of false pretenses, misrepresentation, or deception." "B" dealers are required to maintain "accurate and complete records," including records on "[h]ow, where from whom, and when the dog or cat was obtained." "B" dealers often work with "bunchers" who do the actual stealing in a pet theft ring.

Despite federal regulations and record-keeping requirements, pet theft rings regularly steal animals in various ways and resell them to laboratories. Records are easily falsified, and animals are often transported across state lines to minimize the chances of someone finding their stolen pet. The American Anti-Vivisection Society lists "B" dealers and their Animal Welfare Act violations. In one notorious case, "B" dealer C.C. Baird lost his license and was fined $262,700, as a result of an investigation by Last Chance for Animals. LCA is the leading organization in the U.S. raising awareness about "B" dealers.

The USDA maintains a list of licensed "B" dealers, organized by state. Keep in mind that not all "B" dealers sell stolen animals to laboratories, and most sell animals as part of the legal animal trade.

Bait Animals for Dogfighting

Cats, dogs and even rabbits can be stolen and used as bait in dogfighting. In a dogfight, two dogs are put together in an enclosure and fight to the death or until one can no longer continue. Audience members bet on the outcome, and thousands of dollars can change hands at a single dogfight. Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states but is thriving among both professional dogfighters and thrill-seeking teenagers. The "bait" animals are used to test or train a dog to be as vicious and aggressive as possible.

What You Can Do

The Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2011, H.R. 2256, would prohibit "B" dealers from selling animals for use in research. LCA urges everyone to contact their federal legislators, in support of the bill. You can look up your representative on the House of Representatives website, while your senators can be found on the official Senate website. Find out more about the bill from the LCA website.

To prevent pet theft, microchip your animals and never leave your animal unattended outside. This is common sense protection not only from pet theft but also from predators, exposure, and other threats.

You can learn more about pet theft and "B" dealers from Last Chance for Animals, including more ways to fight pet theft by "B" dealers.

Pet Theft and Animal Rights

From an animal rights standpoint, pet theft is a tragedy, but using any animal for dogfighting or for vivisection violates the animals' rights, regardless of whether the animal was stolen or used to be a pet.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.