The Department of Veteran Affairs Was Ordered to Stop Testing on Cats and Dogs · The Wildest

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Congress Orders the Department of Veteran Affairs to Stop Testing on Cats and Dogs

Under new legislation, all experiments on dogs, cats, and primates must end by 2026.

by Sio Hornbuckle
April 18, 2024
The Animal Welfare Act is meant to protect over a million animals housed in puppy mills, roadside zoos and research facilities across the U.S.
Photo Courtesy of @humanesociety

For years, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has been conducting experiments on animals — a fact that many taxpayers may not be aware of. In 2021, the agency admitted to congress that they had spent nearly five million dollars of taxpayer money on animal testing in just one of their multiple research facilities. Finally, Congress has stepped in to put an end to these experiments; by 2026, all experiments on dogs, cats, and primates by the VA will be ended. 

New legislation

The new legislation is part of the VA’s latest spending bill, which outlines the department’s budget in 2024. “I am proud to say that the Department of Veterans Affairs will be eliminating the use of research on animals within the next two years. We’re pushing the VA to find other scientific methods to conduct vital research and eliminate harmful testing on animals,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman at a House subcommittee hearing. 

The White Coat Waste Project, an organization dedicated to ending government-funded animal testing, told Stars and Stripes that the VA “has active proposals for conducting taxpayer-funded animal experiments at 98 different VA facilities across the U.S.”

As part of the spending bill, the VA is ordered to “implement a plan under which the VA secretary will eliminate research conducted using canines, felines, or non-human primates not later than two years after the date of enactment of this act.” They must also allow inspections of their testing facilities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and submit reports on animal experiments to Congress.

The Department of Veteran Affairs history of animal testing

The White Coat Waste Project has been tirelessly raising awareness for the Department of Veteran Affairs animal experiments for years. In 2021, they sued the Department of Veteran Affairs to gain access to photos and documents related to the animal testing after finding out that the VA was conducting experiments on cats in at least three facilities.

“These are healthy cats who are purchased from commercial breeders by the VA with our tax dollars, brought into the laboratory, locked in a tiny cage, mutilated, tortured, have chemicals injected into them, asphyxiated and then are killed and dissected,” Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, told CBS.

Dogs and primates have also been victims of the VA’s experiments. On their website, the VA explains, “VA is committed to conducting research that is needed to improve medical treatment and provide hope for Veterans and their families. It is often necessary to work with animal models to provide the treatments and cures that the public demands to relieve their suffering.”

But experts, including Madeline Bernstein, president of the L.A. chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, disagree. “The studies that are done on a cat’s brain, most medical experts say will not replicate in the human brain,” Bernstein told CBS.

Some veterans, including the 501(c)3 veterans charity AMVETS, have spoken out against the research. In a letter to Congress, AMVETS explained that canine research has wasted money and “left wounded and disabled veterans with fading hope by failing to produce significant breakthroughs over the last few decades.”

While the new legislation is a great step toward reducing government spending on animal testing, there is still work to be done. The White Coat Waste Project details ways that you can contact Congress to urge them to stop spending on various other animal experimentation facilities in and outside of the U.S. You can also donate to the White Coat Waste Project to support their advocacy.

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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