At the outset, Reitman, a freelance journalist, makes clear that her book is not a diatribe against the use of animals in biomedical research. Rather, she attacks the illegal means by which many of the cats and dogs used in experiments are procured--the theft and misrepresentation by middlemen who sell the animals to laboratories. Often boarded in appallingly unhealthy quarters prior to their sale, the animals can fetch up to $500 apiece, despite their debilitated condition. This money is generally paid from federal grants; the Department of Agriculture has taken no action against this system. Reitman frames her powerful, unsettling expose around a 1991 California trial in which three animal suppliers drew terms of six, five and three years. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
A major industry exists in which pets are stolen or obtained under false pretenses and sold to research institutions. Reitman's book is based on her personal observations of dog auctions, a lengthy trial in California, and information supplied by others working to stop these practices. She provides extensive documentation of the magnitude of the problem and the failure of government agencies--both because of understaffing and unwillingness at executive levels--to enforce the animal welfare laws. However, it is unfortunate that Reitman often digresses from the main subject--pet theft--to criticize all animal research. While there are abuses, the answer is not to ban such research but to scrutinize grant proposals more carefully and rigidly enforce animal welfare laws. For popular collections.-- A. Louis Shor, DVM, Veterinary Consultant, Mt. Laurel, N.J.
Reitman both introduces and concludes her recital of the appalling events she has ferreted out with an account of the 1991 San Fernando trial of mastermind Barbara Ruggiero and her colleagues for the theft of animals to sell for medical research. The accused were found guilty on 12 of 15 counts. Based on many interviews as well as visits to holding quarters and auctions, Reitman's tale is one of squalor, lack of interest on the part of local officials, and apparent cooperation by federal government organizations. After obtaining an inexpensive license from the USDA, suppliers of medical research animals have, it seems, free access and little supervision. In fact, the owners and managers of many of the initial supply businesses were evidently unaware of the ultimate use of the dogs and cats they bought, picked up, and sold. Meanwhile, the medical schools, clinics, and research institutes who used the animals seldom questioned their sources. Reitman pleads for changed attitudes and tighter controls.