April 26, 2018

Court Ruling on PETA ‘Monkey Selfie’ Case

As CNN said, “Monkey ©. Monkey don't.” On Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that monkeys can’t own copyrights or bring copyright infringement suits. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought the case forward on behalf of Naruto, the Indonesian macaque who became a sensation when he snapped a selfie with the unattended camera of wildlife photographer David J. Slater. The level of criticism the court leveled against PETA was surprising. According to the court, PETA “failed” as a friend of Naruto noting, “Puzzlingly, while representing to the world that ‘animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment or abuse in any other way,’ PETA seems to employ Naruto as an unwitting pawn in its ideological goals.” Slater, who reached a settlement with PETA in October to donate 25% of earnings from his book to charities “that protect the habitat of Naruto and other crested macaques in Indonesia,” told the Washington Post he was “thoroughly delighted” with the outcome of the case and that attorneys’ fees were granted. TimeUSA Today, and NPR also covered the ruling.

House Appropriations Committee Releases FY19 MilCon Bill with VA Canine Research Language

Late Wednesday the House Committee on Appropriations released the FY2019 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Page 62 of the bill contains language on canine research at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is identical to what was included in the omnibus spending bill signed by the President in March. The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) will undoubtedly claim this as a “victory,” but is it?

As the bill states: “SEC. 257. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to conduct research using canines unless: the scientific objectives of the study can only be met by research with canines; the study has been directly approved by the Secretary; and the study is consistent with the revised Department of Veterans Affairs canine research policy document released on December 18, 2017: Provided, That not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress a detailed report outlining under what circumstances canine research may be needed, if there are no other alternatives, how often it was used during that time period, and what protocols are in place to determine both the safety and efficacy of the research.”

”Unless” is the key word in this language. The language of the bill, as currently written, clearly outlines stipulations allowing canine research at the VA to continue. The language contained in the omnibus expires on September 30, 2018. The FY2019 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations (MilCon) bill applies to federal funding for FY2019, meaning any such language would need to be reinserted or reintroduced in an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020. The Senate has not yet released their FY2019 MilCon bill.

Governor Hogan Signs Mandatory Adoption Legislation in Maryland

In addition to signing bills banning Maryland’s seven affected pet stores from selling dogs and cats from breeders and prohibiting people convicted of a crime against an animal from owning a pet, Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed Senate Bill 675. SB675, which will be effective October 1, 2018, requires public and private research programs in the state to adopt out retired dogs and cats to animal adoption groups, despite having firmly established adoption protocols with nearly 100% effectiveness. Maryland now becomes the seventh state to pass this legislation, and thus far the only state to have passed it in 2018. Two of the states’ premiere research institutions, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, removed their opposition to SB675 once amendments were agreed to that would permit research institutions to conduct their own adoptions of former research animals and to remove overly burdensome reporting mandates.

Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19), sponsor of the failed House companion, told the local Maryland media outlet Bethesda Magazine on April 11 that SB675 had been “completely neutered” once those amendments were agreed upon. He also noted that he is contemplating a legislative push to outlaw research with companion animals, saying, “If we can’t get any reporting on what they’re doing, then maybe we just need to prohibit the practice.”

Rescue + Freedom Project (R+FP), formerly the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), in asking for donations on Facebook wrote a clear indication of their future plans. The group is strategizing for a nationwide, state-level push and possibly a campaign at the federal-level. R+FP told readers, “7 States down, 43 more to go! Chip in now to support this life-saving legislation everywhere!”

ILAR Publication on Animal Models in Microbiome Research Now Available

Microbiomes may be tiny, but they’re currently a big topic of interest in research. These microorganisms play an important role in health and disease and our understanding of them is advancing rapidly. Mice, zebrafish, piglets, and Drosophila, to name a few species, have been used by researchers. The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) convened a workshop in December of 2016 to examine the strength and weaknesses of these model organisms. Workshop participants learned how to improve their analysis of microbiomes in animal models, the challenges of animal-based research in this field, and about translating such studies to humans. ILAR just announced their publication, Animal Models for Microbiome Research: Advancing Basic and Translational Science, which summarizes the presentations and discussions of the workshop. To get the proceedings, please click here.

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