In a new column titled “Puppies Over Politics” published in U.S. News & World Report, PUPPERS Act co-sponsors Representatives Dave Brat (R-VA) and Dina Titus (D-NV) explain how they’ve been able to win strong bipartisan Congressional support to cut painful and wasteful dog experiments at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Join them and urge your Congress members to support the bipartisan PUPPERS Act to end taxpayer funding for painful dog experiments at the V.A.
PUPPIES OVER POLITICS
Congress must stop the cruel experiments the VA is conducting on dogs.
Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA) & Dina Titus (D-NV)
August 10, 2017
In an era consumed by partisanship and deep policy divides, Republicans and Democrats appear far apart on major issues dominating the headlines. But there are two notable exceptions – veterans and dogs – and we are leading a new bipartisan effort to score a win for both.
In mid-July, The New York Times noted the Veterans’ Affairs Committees in both the House and Senate were a “case study in Washington working as designed.” Veterans issues, from accountability reform and whistleblower protections to the “forever GI bill,” appear to be among the few things folks in Washington can agree on.
After learning that the Department of Veterans Affairs was using taxpayer dollars to buy dogs, breed them and subject them to painful experiments, we both agreed that something had to be done.
The result is the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act – the PUPPERS Act – to stop the VA from using taxpayer dollars for the agency’s most painful experiments on dogs.
We are proud to have introduced the bill with several of our congressional colleagues who are military veterans; and we are excited we have already had bipartisan success to cut waste and protect animals.
The House passed an amendment we sponsored in the “minibus” spending package to implement this prohibition for one year. That is a promising first step. But Congress must work to make it permanent.
Frankly, details of the VA’s dog experiments almost amount to torture. Recent and ongoing VA research on hundreds of dogs involves causing heart attacks in hound-mix puppies and giving methamphetamine to narcoleptic Dobermans. Some of these experiments are categorized by the VA as involving extreme pain and distress that is left unrelieved.
Beyond the upsetting details of the actual experiments, new exposes of these cruel and unnecessary experiments have identified animal welfare violations, oversight failures and accountability lapses. Many of these abuses and missteps were only brought to light through repeated requests from a tenacious nonpartisan taxpayer watchdog group called White Coat Waste Project.
A new VA oversight report prompted by complaints from advocates and Congress members found the Richmond VA Medical Center approved questionable, painful heart failure experiments on dogs without adequate justifications. It also shows researchers killed dogs with botched surgeries and conducted unapproved procedures on dogs. Moreover, for years staff routinely failed to keep accurate records of how many dogs were used, whether sick dogs were provided with medical care and how dogs died.
In Los Angeles, the Greater LA VA secretively bred and experimented on narcoleptic Dobermans for more than 20 years until members of Congress helped expose the laboratory and its misleading public statements that the experiments were just “observational.” In this case, the VA announced that it intends to end the program.
Unlike many other problems in Washington, this is one that is easy to grasp and tackle. After LA’s announcement, only 3 out of the 74 VA animal research facilities still perform painful experiments on dogs: Those situated in Richmond, Virginia as well as Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Animal experiments are notoriously wasteful, and we are making technological advancements to move toward alternative methods of experimentation. The National Institutes of Health has acknowledged, “animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies.”
The NIH has ended chimpanzee research, and has said that available technologies are more accurate, faster and less expensive than animal testing. The U.S. military is moving away from using live animals in trauma medical training and the U.S. Coast Guard recently announced it was suspending its live tissue training program.
In a recent Pew poll, 80 percent of Americans stated that they do not trust lawmakers in Washington to do the right thing on most issues. Nearly the same number of Americans – 75 percent – oppose experiments on dogs, according to a national poll by Lincoln Park Strategies. Dogs are cherished pets, members of the family, faithful partners to servicemen and women on the battlefield and sources of comfort and healing to those who have returned home from war.
Passing the PUPPERS Act will protect dogs from painful experiments, trim waste and implement a change that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.