the past three years of all licensed (as of October 2008) Class B dealers. Those reports revealed that one dealer purchased two cats from a private individual who during traceback investigation admitted that the animals were illegally acquired “strays.” Other citations involved incomplete acquisition documentation. Thus, increased traceback oversight is working at discovering violations, but these ongoing events illustrate that the law continues to be violated.
No system of laws and regulations can absolutely assure protection against theft of pets or misplacement of lost pets, but even single incidents, however few, are a breach of the public trust. The reasons for these deficiencies are multifactorial. The most significant factor is that the acquisition and resale of animals by dealers, bunchers, and individuals is profit-driven, and thus may foster corrupt practices and less attention to animal welfare issues. The system therefore requires rigorous enforcement, but APHIS is understaffed for the task, even with the reduction in numbers of dealers. According to testimony by Dr. Willems, some tracebacks are dead ends, with suspicion of violation, but lack of evidence. Even if staffing were substantially increased, prosecution of AWA abuses requires a step-wise approach to enforcement of the AWR, with documentation to create a “paper trail” of evidence involving citations with correction dates, requests for investigation, warnings, stipulations, formal complaints, and finally a hearing, all before violators can be legally prosecuted. These steps are mandated by federal law in the Administrative Procedures Act, which requires due process and places time constraints on APHIS authorities for action. Regarding the humane issues this Committee was also charged to examine, there is a strong concern that animals can only be removed if they are in need of immediate veterinary care, leaving the potential for animals that are severely stressed or in need of less intensive care to be left unattended indefinitely.
The Committee considered the question of whether animals are still being stolen for research, but was not able to answer conclusively based on the evidence provided. The Committee recognizes, however, that lost animals may find their way into the system inadvertently. Shelter lost-and-found systems range from use of computerized programs to random tours through the shelter by poorly trained staff and distraught owners. Other reasons lost pets are not reunited with their owners are poor breed identification, and lack of resources.
Implanted microchips are a tool used to identify animals and are currently provided by three different companies. Yet, according to testimony provided by USDA staff, inspectors do not check for microchips when performing tracebacks. In order to be effective, recent research has shown that microchip scans should be performed at least 3 times, because such equipment as computers, fluorescent lights, and stainless steel exam tables