Lawmakers in Congress plan to re-introduce a bipartisan legislation aimed at ending expensive, deadly, and potentially illegal dog experiments at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — and several prominent conservatives are rallying behind the cause.
As IJR Red reported, the VA plowed ahead with the fatal, taxpayer-funded tests after President Donald Trump signed a bill into law in early 2018 requiring such experiments to be “directly approved” by the VA secretary.
The problem is, it’s unclear if the VA secretary actually signed off on them.
Back in November, VA spokesman Curt Cashour claimed former secretary David Shulkin verbally approved the continuation of the experiments on the day he was fired. Shulkin, however, later clarified that he “wasn’t asked, nor did I request a review for an approval.”
Under these questionable circumstances, the wasteful experiments have continued at VA facilities in Richmond, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. They include removing parts of dogs’ brains, using electrodes on their spinal cords, implanting pacemakers in them, and then ultimately euthanizing them.
— 8News WRIC Richmond (@8NEWS) September 20, 2018
However, the VA’s inspector general has since opened an investigation into the tests to determine whether they are happening in violation of the law, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of more than 50 legislators in the House is introducing legislation on Wednesday to put an end to the experiments altogether.
Originally introduced in 2017, the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act aims to prohibit the spending of taxpayer money on dog experiments at the VA.
Cosponsor and double amputee veteran Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) announced the move alongside Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) in a press release that was warmly welcomed by veterans groups who oppose these studies:
“While I was recovering from my injuries, I saw firsthand the important role that dogs play in helping veterans recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls. For too long, the VA has gotten away with conducting these harmful—sometimes fatal—experiments on dogs. These tests are abusive, waste taxpayer dollars and must be stopped.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another cosponsor, told USA Today, “Technology evolves faster than government processes, and the result at the VA has been that we have neglected technologies that would give us testing information so that we can continue painful animal testing, and that’s silly.”
Today, @repdinatitus and @RepBrianMast introduced the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respect Species (PUPPERS) Act, a measure that would "end the senseless abuse of canines in VA research labs." pic.twitter.com/O4Gpmrx2vT
— AMVETS (@AMVETSHQ) February 13, 2019
Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law and 2020 campaign adviser, praised President Trump for signing off on the restrictions, calling the decision a “great opportunity afoot to protect veterans’ health, all while encouraging the VA to allocate funds and resources towards important programs that will truly benefit our veterans.”
New to the cause, she also commended the congressmen on taking the initiative to permanently end them.
“I’m encouraged by the advocacy of lawmakers like Congressmen Brian Mast and Matt Gaetz for leading on this issue and in particular introducing the … legislation to end this program,” she said.
— White Coat Waste Project (@WhiteCoatWaste) February 13, 2019
Taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project, a group that has uncovered countless federal animal experiments operating on the taxpayers’ dime, applauded Mrs. Trump for calling attention to the issue and put the VA on blast.
“Mrs. Trump is well-known and highly-respected as a champion for the welfare of veterans and dogs and we’re honored that she’s helping both by lending her voice to the campaign to end the VA’s wasteful and cruel dog experimentation,” president and founder Anthony Bellotti told IJR.
Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) also put pressure on the VA on Wednesday, joining ten other members of Congress who signed a letter to the department demanding the suspension of the practice “given its costs, animal welfare concerns, opposition from veterans and available alternatives.”
Dogs are our 4 legged family members w the well earned title of man’s best friend & it’s time we stand up for these loyal pals! @RepTedLieu & I led MOCs today to call on @DeptVetAffairs to suspend its dog testing program. Learn more here ➡️https://t.co/uARmxutVG2
— Lee Zeldin (@RepLeeZeldin) February 13, 2019
“This research is cruel, unnecessary and inefficient,” he said. “Though in theory the studies are supposed to help people who have endured serious combat injuries, VA experts have noted that even the most promising animal research rarely applies to people.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated for clarity after publication.