When I worked for Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., he had a soft spot in his heart for animals. Smith was known as a tough conservative who was willing to fight for what he believed in. The senator from New Hampshire had many causes. One was to develop a robust space-based missile defense system to protect the United States from attack – a fight on that issue continues today. Another was showing compassion to those who have no voice.
Smith told the Manchester Union Leader in an interview on November 21, 2002, that he was proud to have shown “compassion for animals.” Smith fought to provide chimpanzees who were the subject of government testing a place to live out their lives, instead of having them killed after testing was complete. The Capitol used to host a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus event every year where they paraded circus elephants. Smith fought to end that practice.
I learned much from Sen. Bob Smith and that is why I was outraged to learn that our government is engaging in wasteful and inhumane animal experimentation that is unnecessary and horrifying. These are some of the same abusive practices that Sen. Smith fought while he was a member.
Anthony Bellotti, a former Republican political strategist and president of the conservative taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, wrote in The Hill that:
“right now, the VA doles out more than $1,600 to purchase 6-month-old beagles, hounds or mixed-breed dogs. The white coats at the VA then spend hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars to surgically induce heart attacks by injecting latex into the puppies’ arteries and then stressing their damaged hearts by forcing them to run on a treadmill. Congress members have noted that some of the experiments are placed in the government’s ‘maximum pain’ category because the dogs’ pain and distress are left unrelieved. The VA then sticks a needle in them, cuts their hearts out and tosses their bodies in the trash.”
This is being done with taxpayer money.
Thankfully, there is a bipartisan effort to stop this experimentation on dogs. The bill is titled the PUPPERS Act (H.R. 3197) and was introduced by conservative Freedom Caucus member Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. The bill prevents the Department of Veterans Affairs from using Americans’ hard earned tax payments on very painful experiments on dogs. The bill allows some noninvasive experimentation, but would prevent dogs from being injected with latex and then forced to run until they die. To its credit, the House unanimously passed a related amendment last summer to defund these tests. The Senate should act next.
Our veterans are in need of care and deserve tax dollars for making the sacrifice to serve their country in a time of war. Veterans Affairs should be spending more money to help the wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq, and no money to torture dogs in questionable experiments. Many veterans and veterans’ groups agree. Our government represents the values of the American people, and you would be hard pressed to find anybody who thinks this is a good use of taxpayer dollars when our nation has over $20 trillion in national debt.
According to the White Coat Waste Project, the VA uses about 100 beagles and hounds in this way each year, often at a cost of over $1,600 per dog and hundreds of thousands of dollars for each experiment. That is a waste of money. According to a May 8, 2017 report in the LA Times, the VA was considering a 2016 research application for a “proposed experiment involves giving 18 narcoleptic Dobermans antidepressants or methamphetamine, then killing the dogs and studying how the drugs affect the production of histamines — the body's response to allergens — in their brains.” According to the story, many Members of Congress who are tasked with oversight had no knowledge of this proposed study, and the VA halted the plans after public scrutiny. Sadly, there are still other similar horrifying studies on dogs at the VA that taxpayers would be upset by if they knew about them.
I am a libertarian who believes in freedom. That freedom does not allow one person to harm another, nor does my philosophy excuse people abusing animals. Animals don’t have a voice nor representation in Congress, yet they have some friends in Reps. Brat and Titus, to make sure that tax money is not squandered on tests with limited utility and maximum pain to defenseless animals.
Brian Darling is a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a veteran of Capitol Hill.
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