Veterans Service Organizations Urge End To Canine Research

Jonah Bennett | Contributor

Veterans service organization are urging members of Congress to put a stop to “unnecessary” dog experimentation at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VetsFirst, American Military Retirees Association and The Retired Enlisted Association signed a letter directed to Democratic Rep. Dina Titus and GOP Rep. Dave Brat, expressing support for their efforts to end painful experimentation on dogs at the VA.

“We are concerned by the apparent lack of evidence that the VA’s past and ongoing canine research—particularly projects involving causing dogs pain and distress, some of which is not relieved—has led to effective and accessible treatments or cures for veteran-specific illnesses,” the letter states. “Further, any medical conclusions borne from VA research should be allowed to benefit veterans for purposes of obtaining service-connected presumptive injuries and illnesses. As such, we support your efforts to eliminate unnecessary VA canine research that is not serving the specific needs of all veterans so that these resources can be more appropriately allocated.”

VetsFirst is a project of United Spinal Association, the biggest disability-led national nonprofit organization in the country, which represents veterans afflicted with spinal cord injuries and disorders.

Brat and Titus have spearheaded the effort to ban painful experimentation on dogs at the VA, which became an issue after numerous reports emerged showing that many of the botched experiments resulted in animal suffering.

GOP Rep. Brian Mast, who helped introduce the PUPPERS Act, which bans the use of dogs for medical experiments that induce “significant pain or distress,” said that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to abuse dogs.

“As a combat-wounded veteran, its alarming that the VA is spending taxpayers’ money abusing dogs in unnecessary experiments when veterans are still unable to get the treatment and care they need,” Mast said in a statement. “I’m proud that the House of Representatives unanimously passed my legislation to defund these wasteful and cruel dog tests and am grateful for the support of organizations representing veterans.”

The controversy over dog research built up to the point where VA Secretary David Shulkin felt it necessary to write a USA Today op-ed in September, arguing for the importance of continued animal experimentation, as only the VA is capable of engaging in important research that doesn’t turn an immediate profit. Secondly, according to Shulkin, using computer models instead of dogs doesn’t work because in order to use models, as researchers must already have a full understanding of the underlying biological and physiological mechanics at play.

Veterans’ organizations have been divided on the PUPPERS Act and similar legislative proposals.

The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans are firmly in favor of animal research.

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