Victory! Puppies Will No Longer Be Tortured at Veterans Affairs Labs
On National Puppy Day, just a week after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pledged to reduce its painful and wasteful canine experiments, a spending bill signed by the president gave man’s best friend a huge victory by defunding the agency’s tests on dogs — practices taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project has been working with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to expose and end for nearly 18 months now.
The new rules, tucked into this year’s massive $1.3 trillion spending bill, set strict criteria for the use of any 2018 taxpayer money to fund canine experiments at the VA. In addition to requiring direct approval from the VA secretary, such experiments will also require the secretary to provide Congress with a report detailing why no alternative to canine testing was possible in each instance.
We predict little to no dog testing will happen at the VA this year.
Now, virtually every dollar that would have been wasted on testing and abusing dogs will instead be spent on other, more productive VA programs and priorities to help wounded warriors.
This historic defund came amid pressure from veterans groups, taxpayers, members of Congress and White Coat Waste Project, all of whom have widely criticized the VA’s experiments for failing to actually help veterans and for involving horrifying practices such as causing heart attacks in 6-month-old beagle puppies, collapsing dogs’ lungs, cutting into their brains, and performing “maximum pain” tests them, during which significant pain is induced but not relieved.
It also followed disturbing investigations by White Coat Waste Project that uncovered the VA’s repeated, fatal botched surgeries on dogs, widespread oversight failures, and animal welfare violations including unapproved, painful procedures on dogs, underreporting their dog use, and false claims that the department “adopted out” dogs that had actually been killed during their inhumane experiments. Fortunately, nearly all of these cruel practices will cease to continue for the rest of the year—a development that was celebrated by the majority of veterans and 66 percent of overall voters in the United States who favor ending them.
“AMVETS commends Congress’s commitment to modernizing the VA’s research program by eliminating unnecessary, painful testing on canines,” Chief Strategy Officer and U.S. Marine veteran Sherman Gillums commented. “Many of the veterans we represent are dog owners. A good number of them are also veterans with disabling conditions who rely on trained service animals to provide assistance and independence.”
While veterans groups and animal advocates alike have declared the spending bill a big win for defunding the VA’s experiments on dogs, it may not be a permanent one. The new legislation applies for the remainder of 2018, but there’s nothing stopping the agency’s purse strings from opening back up to fund canine testing next year.
However, Congress can permanently stop the VA from using hardworking taxpayer dollars to conduct these expensive and painful tests ever again by passing the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act, which would prohibit the agency “from purchasing, breeding, transporting, housing, feeding, maintaining, disposing of, or experimenting on dogs as part of the conduct of any study that causes significant pain or distress.”
Calling the revelations about the VA’s canine experiments “disturbing” and “almost on the scale of torture,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) introduced the PUPPERS Act following an investigation into McGuire VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Richmond, Virginia, saying, “We must have quality health care for our veterans and the best medical research, but I believe there are alternative and more humane methods that can lead to similar medical breakthroughs.
It is clear from this investigation the conditions at the McGuire VAMC in Richmond are not meeting the highest standards and healthy puppies are suffering through induced heart attack studies as a result. Our bill sets clearly defined expectations for medical research and will prohibit research at taxpayer-funded VA facilities that causes significant pain or distress for puppies.”
“With my colleagues in the House and devoted advocates, I have helped expose cruel and outdated experiments on dogs at VA facilities in Los Angeles, Richmond, and other locations around the country,” cosponsor Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) added. “This legislation will help end those inhumane programs once and for all by ensuring that taxpayers do not foot the bill for purchasing, breeding, transporting, and disposing of dogs. Passing this bill will benefit both our veterans and our four-legged friends.”