Couple procured dogs for medical research
BY AMY WORDEN, The Philadelphia Inquirer
HARRISBURG -- They were known as "random source" dog dealers.
They bought their animals by the hundreds from shady individuals known as "bunchers," who collect dogs from auctions, shelters, the street, theft, and "free to good home" pet ads.
Then, prosecutors say, the dealers sold the dogs to some of the nation's leading medical institutions.
Floyd and Susan Martin of Shippensburg were part of a federally sanctioned method of procuring animals for medical research, known as Class B or "random source" dog dealers.
But on Thursday, the Martins pleaded guilty in federal court here to illegally purchasing hundreds of dogs for resale to research facilities, including Johns Hopkins and Columbia universities.
The Martins, who operated Chestnut Grove Kennel, admitted that they received hundreds of thousands of dollars from research facilities for fraudulently obtained dogs between 2005 and 2010.
Under a deal with prosecutors, Floyd Martin pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, for which he will serve a year in prison. Susan Martin pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy, for which she will be placed on probation.
The Martins also will be required to pay $300,000 in restitution.
Susan Martin's attorney, Lawrence Rosen, said hat the Martins were pleased that the case was behind them.
"It was very stressful for them," said Rosen as Susan Martin, 56, helped her husband from the courtroom. Floyd Martin, 57, has multiple sclerosis, he told the court.
The guilty pleas come nearly a half-century after a Pennsylvania case involving a Dalmatian named Pepper, stolen from her family's yard and sold to a New York research hospital in 1965, first drew attention to the practice.
Before her owners could track her down, Pepper died as the result of a cardiac pacemaker experiment. But her story helped win passage of the federal Animal Welfare Act in 1966, establishing humane standards for animals in laboratory settings and regulating dealers that sold to them.
In 2011, when the Martins were indicted by a grand jury, they were among a handful of remaining Class B "random source" dealers in the nation. Three of the six dealers still licensed are under federal investigation.
Class B dealers may purchase dogs from unlicensed individuals who collect dogs -- "bunchers" -- but those individuals may sell the dealers no more than 24 dogs a year.
According to the indictment, the Martins purchased hundreds of dogs from just two individuals while falsely certifying to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that they had purchased fewer than 25 dogs from multiple family members and friends -- including one person who was deceased by the time of the alleged sale.