In a victory against animal trafficking and abuse, Congress recently passed a law banning funds for USDA class B licenses, which permit animal dealers to sell “random source” dogs and cats for medical research. Animals pedaled by class B dealers undergo terrible abuses, and are often sourced from animal shelters or are pets stolen from their owners.

Animal dealers are part of a large network that supplies animals to laboratories and research facilities where they are often force-fed poison, exposed to radiation, and subjected to other harmful tests and procedures.

Anyone who sells an animal to these laboratories must acquire a license from the USDA. Class A license holders breed their own animals; class B dealers, on the other hand, purchase and sell “random source” animals from shelters, individual owners, breeders, and other B dealers.  For a nominal fee, a class B license can be obtained by pretty much anyone.

“Bunchers” are another significant link in the animal dealers’ network. Animals are collected by bunchers through “free to a good home” ads and by stealing pets from shopping areas and backyards. Bunchers will even pose as animal control personnel and drive through neighborhoods combing for strays. The bunchers then sell large groups of animals to class B dealers, who in turn sell to research labs.

If this story wasn’t sad enough, animal protection organizations have revealed major abuses within the dealer pipeline that occur before the animals even reach the labs. Inside investigations have shown animals being kicked, beaten, thrown into holding pens, fed maggot-infested food, starved, exposed to harsh weather conditions, and denied medical attention. Newborn animals are sometimes crushed to death or eaten by cage-mates. An overwhelming percentage of the animals subject to these conditions are stolen pets or cats and dogs obtained from shelters.

To combat the problem, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard added language to the 2016 Omnibus Spending Bill — passed by Congress in December — to stop all funding for the licensing or re-licensing of class B dealers. The number of active B dealers has experienced a sharp decline over the years, mostly due to public outrage over animal abuse. Two decades ago, there were hundreds of class B dealers. Last year, only a small handful of B dealers remained.

Presuming the measure will be included in future spending bills, the ban ensures that the remaining B dealers are permanently shut down and the atrocities carried out by the dealers and their network are stopped for good.