Skip to Main Content

How Animals End Up in Laboratories

Animals who are used for experiments come from many different sources, ranging from city pounds to zoos and circuses looking to get rid of unwanted animals to mass commercial breeders. The animals’ suffering begins even before they reach the vivisectors’ hands when they are ripped from their families and forced to live in bleak conditions at mass breeding facilities and then transported to laboratories on long and terrifying plane and truck trips.  Whether they are specifically bred for experiments, are abducted from the wild, or were once someone’s cherished companion, no animals want or deserve to spend their lives locked inside a cage in a lonely laboratory.

Dogs and Cats

Many dogs and cats used in laboratory experiments come from companies that breed animals specifically to be used and killed in laboratories. Others were once trusting companions who simply got lost―or stolen―from their families.

Pound Seizure

Animal shelters in most states are allowed to turn over homeless dogs and cats to facilities for experimentation, and in two states—Minnesota and Oklahoma—shelters are required to turn over animals to laboratories upon request This is commonly known as “pound seizure.”

Seventeen states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia, and the District of Columbia forbid pound seizure. Most other states have no law and leave it up to county or town governments to decide.  Dogs and cats are sold to laboratories for as little as $15 and sometimes after being in shelters for as short as a day, never even being given a chance to find a safe home and loving family. 

Class A Dealers

Anyone selling animals to laboratories or selling more than 24 dogs or cats per year at the wholesale level must be licensed. Class A dealers maintain their own breeding colonies, such as puppy mills.

Class B Dealers

Anyone 18 or older who is willing to pay a fee can obtain a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Class B dealer license. While most Class B dealers sell animals to pet stores, zoos, aquariums and other forms of exhibition, in states that allow pound seizure, Class B dealers may buy animals from pounds and animal shelters”Bunchers” are also a vital source of animals in the dealers’ network. Using sedatives hidden in meat, females in heat, and nets, they lure or trap dogs and cats. Some thieves pose as animal control officers and comb neighborhoods in vans, “confiscating” animals without tags. Many bunchers also purchase litters from unsuspecting people who allow their animal companions to breed and obtain animals from “Free to a Good Home” advertisements.  These animals are often kept in squalid conditions and given little food and water.

C.C. Baird, the largest and most notorious Class B animal dealer in the United States, purchased animals from people using false addresses and non-existent driver’s license numbers. In March 2004, after years of efforts by animal protection organizations, the USDA filed a 108-page complaint listing hundreds of violations against C.C. Baird, his wife, Patsy, and their daughters, Jeanette and Patricia. In January, 2005, a settlement was reached in Baird’s civil case. Baird’s USDA license was permanently revoked and Baird was slapped with a fine of $262,700, the largest fine ever imposed by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Thousands of animals are sold to laboratories by Class B dealers each year.  As of December 2009, there were 10 Class B dealers who engage in this shameful practice.


Chimpanzees and other primates used in experiments in the U.S. are primarily bred in laboratories, although many are also captured in the wild in places like Asia, South America and Africa. Unwanted chimpanzees from zoos and circuses are sometimes sold to laboratories. The Oregon National Primate Research Center brags that it maintains colonies of rhesus monkeys, snow monkeys, vervets, and baboons who were taken from the wild or transferred to the center from other facilities.

Rodents and Other Animals

Birds, frogs, pigs, sheep, cattle, and many naturally free-roaming animals (e.g., prairie dogs and owls) are also common victims of experimentation. So are mice, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rabbits.

Most small animals used in laboratory experiments are bred by callous companies that view animals as little more than test tubes with whiskers. For example, Charles River Laboratories is one of the world’s largest suppliers of rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals for laboratory experiments. The Jackson Laboratory supplies approximately 2 million mice to major universities, medical schools, and laboratories around the world every year.

You Can Help Stop This

Please support only charities and products that do not torture animals in experiments.