New trends emerge in pet theft
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1996:
The third biennial update of the
ANIMAL PEOPLE pet theft log shows dramatic
changes in patterns of both pet theft
itself and prosecutions since the 1990 Pet
Theft Act amendments to the Animal
Welfare Act took effect in January 1992.
Since January 1992, 56 perpetrators
have stolen 218 pets in cases where the
fate of the stolen animals is known. Taken
were 189 dogs (87%) and 29 cats.
Thefts by dogfighters accounted for
48 missing animals (22%); other sadism
accounted for 47 more (22%). Sadism
accounted for 44% of the thefts overall.
Two perpetrators stole 35 animals
(16%), all by fraud, for sale to research.
This is a preliminary total only, as pending
USDA prosecutions of several Class B animal
dealers may bring further identifications.
Would-be rescuers stole 51 animals
(24%), including 47 of 159 dogs seized in
1993 from Wisconsin ‘B’ dealer Ervin
Stebane, 143 of whom were ordered
returned after Stebane was acquitted of cruelty
charges brought as result of a sting by Last
Chance for Animals. The dogs vanished
from various holding facilities during the
next fewdays. Stebane was permanently put
out of business by the USDA as part of a
February 1994 plea bargain pertaining to
multiple alleged AWA violations, including
failing to identify the sources of dogs.
By contrast, before the Pet Theft
Act amendments took effect, thefts for
research accounted for 456 of 534 stolen animals
(85%) whose fate was known, including
animals stolen in cases prosecuted since
January 1992 that actually occurred earlier.
ANIMAL PEOPLE archives indicate
that 50 stolen animals were identified in
cases occurring prior to 1988, of whom 48
(96%) were stolen in six cases pertaining to
laboratory supply. However, no pet thieves
were successfully prosecuted until after the
introduction of the 1988 Pet Protection Act,
drafted by Adele Douglass of the American
Humane Association and Martha Armstrong,
then of the Massachusetts SPCA, now director
of companion animals for the Humane
Society of the U.S. The act failed, but publicity
about it apparently stimulated successful
USDA action against 14 laboratory animal
suppliers during the next four years.
Rreintroduced as the Pet Theft Act
in 1990, the Pet Protection Act was adopted
as part of the 1990 Farm Bill.
Class ‘B’ dealers
The Commissioners Court of
Harris County, Texas, unanimously voted
on March 18 to keep selling pound animals to
Texas A&M, the University of Texas
Health Science Center, and Baylor College
of Medicine. Fiscal 1994 figures show Harris
County was paid $76,000 for 1,900 animals.
Dog warden Art Evans, of Greene
County, Ohio, announced March 1 that
“Greene County Animal Shelter will cease
releasing animals to individuals or agencies,
for research, medical study, or teaching
labs.” Greene County formerly sold about 200
animals a year to Wright State University in
Dayton, chiefly for use in practice surgery.
Montcalm County (Michigan)
Citizens for Animal Welfare was to hold a
candlelight vigil on April 22 to protest the
January 13-0 vote of the county commissioners
to continue to kill animals via carbon dioxide
suffocation, and continue selling
impounded animals to research via R & R
Research Breeders, of Howard City.
The USDA is reportedly probing
allegations that intermediaries have “adopted”
dogs from Oregon animal control shelters and
sold them to California labs via Betty Gayle
Davis, 47, of Azalea, Oregon, a Class B animal
dealer since December 1994. “We did get
a seach warrant, we took a lot of records, and
we’re persuing those records now,” USDA
veterinarian Robert Willems said. Davis’
license was suspended for three weeks early in
the probe, but was reinstated when charges
were not filed within that time. Willems at
last report was still seeking the previous owners
of 29 dogs found on Davis’ premises.