The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has announced they will be discontinuing their research with cats. This follows an aggressive, multi-year campaign by White Coat Waste Project (WCWP). The USDA has stated that “use of cats as part of any research protocol in any laboratory in ARS has been discontinued and will not be reinstated.”
After external and internal scientific reviews of the toxoplasmosis research within ARS, including “feasibility of adoption for cats used in the research,” the remaining 14 cats that were a part of this protocol will be adopted out to approved USDA employees. This announcement follows scathing media attention prompted by a recently released WCWP report. WCWP has publicly taken credit for shutting down what they called the USDA’s “kitten slaughterhouse.”
As part of this WCWP campaign against USDA toxoplasmosis research, the KITTEN Act was reintroduced in both the House, H.R. 1622, and the Senate, S. 708 in early March. The bill text has been released and is identical in both chambers. Minimal changes have been made since the introduction of the bill in the 115th session. The legislation would amend the animal welfare act to eliminate the use of cats in research at the USDA.
Now that ARS has terminated the project at the heart of this campaign, the KITTEN Act is arguably a moot point. However, because the KITTEN Act would apply to all of USDA, not just ARS, we are likely to see a continued push for this legislation by research opponents.
Director Collins’ Missed Opportunity Before House Labor-H Committee
Yesterday, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) appeared before the House Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee to discuss the NIH proposed FY2020 budget. In an extremely leading question that appeared to have been taken directly from PETA talking points, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) asked Director Collins why the agency spends 47% of its annual budget o budget on “animal experiments that fail 90% of the time.”
While acknowledging he could “point to some animal models that are quite faithful reproductions of a human circumstance,” Director Collins used his time to emphasize the work that the NIH is doing in alternatives to animal research at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). He then pointed out that because of NIH’s decision to stop funding any invasive research with chimpanzees, “investigators who used to depend on that model have been required to go elsewhere.” PETA is pleased with this response and has initiated another “Take Action” alert to tell Congress to defund “cruel experiments on animals.” A full video of the question and Director Collins’ answer can be found here.
APHIS Rulemaking on Licensing Requirements and Canine Regulations: NABR Comments
On March 21, 2019, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a stakeholder announcement concerning proposed rulemaking to amend licensing requirements and update certain canine regulations.
The 58-page document proposes many changes to specific sections of the regulations and standards that NABR is taking the time to carefully review and analyze.
Due to the complexity of the changes, and the number of proposed changes that were not previously addressed in the notice of proposed rulemaking, NABR will be requesting a 30-day extension and encourages our member institutions to do so as well.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) Introduces Federal Grant Transparency Bill
On March 14 Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced S. 807, also known as the Cost Openness and Spending Transparency Act of 2019, or COST Act. Sen. Ernst’s office released a detailed press release on the COST Act, which can be viewed here.
Currently Federal law, known as the Stevens Amendment, requires recipients of federal money provided by the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Education to disclose the percentage of costs funded by federal dollars, the amount of money received from the federal government, and the amount financed by other funds. The COST Act would expand the scope of the Stevens Amendment to apply to all Federal departments and programs.
In a report issued on March 14, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report stating, “that most Department offices didn’t manage grantee compliance with the disclosure requirement.” To ensure compliance, the COST Act provides authority to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to withhold a portion of a grant from a recipient that does not disclose the costs, as required by the act, until it does so. The COST Act has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Currently, the bill has two cosponsors, Senators Lankford (R-OK) and Paul (R-KY).
ILAR Workshop on VA Canine Research
On March 27, the National Academies of Science (NAS) Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) committee evaluating the “assessment of the care and use of dogs in biomedical research funded by or conducted at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)” hosted a public workshop.
Day one of the workshop featured panels on comparative modeling in cardiovascular research, ethical and societal issues regarding the use of dogs in biomedical research, and comparative modeling in spinal cord injury research. The panels on cardiovascular and spinal cord injury research featured scientists well versed in large animal, small animal, and in vitromodeling. The committee had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the merits of different types of models and discuss in what scenarios the dog is the only or best model species to use.
The panel on ethical and societal issues regarding the use of dogs in biomedical research featured presentations by Jeffrey Kahn, David DeGrazia, and James Serpell. James Serpell presented on “The Unique Role of Dogs in Society” and completed his presentation with a brief history of canine “vivisection.” Public comments at the end of day one included comments from Alka Chandna of PETA, predictably condemning all animal research.
Day two of the workshop featured a discussion with representatives of the VA on VA research priorities. VA Chief Research and Development Officer, Rachel Ramoni, answered committee questions no research at the VA. VA representatives Karen Lohmann Siegel and Chris Bever also discussed the scientific review process within the VA.
A video recording of the meeting will be posted to the study site. Written comments and testimony may be submitted to the committee at any time during the study. We encourage experts in this area to weigh in.
NABR Webinar: Animal Law and the Animal Research Community
Join us, on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, when Jerrold Tannenbaum Professor Emeritus of Veterinary and Animal Ethics and Law, School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California Davis will discuss “Animal Law and the Animal Research Community.”
He will discuss what the research community needs to know and do to address one of the most important threats to animal research: the recent emergence of the new field of animal law. Professor Tannenbaum will discuss how animal law has become a central tool of animal activists in opposing animal research. He will also look at the significance of a development in activist legal theory that has thus far been ignored by many in the research community. He will emphasize that it is essential for supporters of animal research to understand how animal activists are attempting to use the law to achieve their aims, and to think seriously about what the research community should do.
Click here to reserve your spot! This exclusive event is free-to-NABR members. Please email us at email@example.com or call (202) 857-0540 if you have any questions.
FASEB Webinar: The Case for Canines in Biomedical Research
On Thursday, April 25, 2:00-3:00 pm (ET), FASEB will be hosting a free webinar on The Case for Canines in Biomedical Research. Speakers Michael Fallon, Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Alice Huang, Staff Scientist and Deputy, IACUC Guidance, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will join FASEB Science Policy Analyst, Naomi Charlambakis, to discuss why the dog remains the “leading model” for areas of research such as atrial fibrillation and spinal cord injury. They will also be discussing federal hoops scientists face before initiating such research and why these hoops exist. Interested parties may register for this free webinar here.
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