The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to invest in studying the possibility of replacing their costly and cruel dog experiments following backlash from lawmakers and veterans, a leaked department powerpoint obtained by IJR reveals.
The federal agency plans to commit $2 million towards looking into phasing out the widely criticized tests on dogs and transitioning into using pigs instead. The department also indicated an openness to eliminating the use of all animals when “in vitro, computer simulation” techniques “can be used instead of animals.”
The revelation comes after the VA faced criticism from Republicans and veterans groups over several dog experiments that have continued under questionable legal circumstances. According to a law signed by President Donald Trump, such tests require the VA secretary’s explicit approval, and it’s unclear if that was given.
The controversial experiments have included removing parts of dogs’ brains, using electrodes on their spinal cords and implanting pacemakers in them — all before ultimately euthanizing them. While the VA touts the tests as necessary for public health, veterans groups have called them a “senseless abuse of canines.”
The news also closely follows the reintroduction of the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act, which aims to stop funding dog tests at the VA with taxpayer dollars, as IJR Red reported.
The PUPPERS Act’s lead Republican cosponsor, combat-wounded veteran Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), applauded the department’s efforts to studying alternative research possibilities in a statement to IJR:
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask to want the VA to do better for veterans and man’s best friend than harming and killing puppies in outdated research opposed by most taxpayers. We’ve made progress to significantly curb the VA dog testing, but there is more work to do, so I am definitely looking forward to learning more from the VA about its plan to explore alternatives to its last major dog testing program in Richmond.”
Additionally, the development comes as the National Academies of Science is conducting an assessment of the VA’s dog testing program and assembling experts from around the world, including experts in alternatives to dog use, to review the department’s dog experiments.
Should the VA follow through on replacing its dog experiments with other alternative measures, the move would continue the agency’s streak of scaling back canine tests. The department has achieved a 66 percent reduction since March of 2018 after going from 15 active tests at the time to just five currently.
Taxpayer watchdog White Coat Waste Project, a group whose work has uncovered many of the federal government’s secretive animal experiments, celebrated the potential transition in a statement to IJR:
“It’s way past time for the government to ditch dog testing and this promising VA proposal could end the worst of it, including ‘maximum pain’ heart attack tests on puppies. We’re cautiously optimistic that the Richmond VA will finally replace its archaic dog experiments like taxpayers and Congress are demanding and researchers elsewhere have already done.”
As IJR Red reported, Republicans have been stepping up to the plate lately to stop the wasteful spending of taxpayer money on animal experiments across several federal agencies.
Just last week, Mast sounded off on the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for disturbing cat tests and reiterated his commitment to ending them. In November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took steps towards eliminating its own dog testing program after it received bipartisan backlash.