February 14, 2018

President Trump Releases FY19 Budget Proposal

President Donald Trump released his FY2019 Budget Proposal this week. In his message to Congress, he highlighted several reform pillars including “ending wasteful spending,” “combatting opioid addiction,” and “fighting high medical drug prices.” Along with promising to address the opioid epidemic and proposing a funding increase for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), President Trump proposed capping funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other federal research agencies at their 2017 levels, thereby limiting funding for research and development. The proposed Budget also “integrates the research of three programs – the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation – within NIH to improve coordination and outcomes.” Read the full FY19 Budget Proposal here.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) addressed the President’s Budget Proposal. Among the issues addressed are wild horses, horse slaughter, animal welfare, marine animals, and alternatives to animal testing. The post presents HSLF’s position on proposed cuts to the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Animal Welfare program, arguing the Budget Proposal must provide adequate funding for the program to “fulfill its responsibility to ensure basic care for millions of animals at puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, and other facilities as Congress and the public expect.” Additionally, HSLF highlighted the proposed 19 percent cut to the NIH’s National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences. Read the full HSLF post here.

NBC News Spotlights Canine Cancer Research

In case you missed it, a segment on Saturday's NBC Nightly News broadcast with Lester Holt was dedicated to exploring some promising cancer research involving dogs.

As explained by NBC News Medical Correspondent Dr. John Torres, 20 major medical centers are conducting clinical trials for drugs that could potentially cure cancer in dogs. "Humans and dogs are 95% identical genetically—and the diseases that affect humans, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and melanoma, are almost identical."

Click here to learn why so many researchers are turning to man's best friend for new cancer treatments that could benefit humans and companion animals alike. The segment perfectly exemplifies the Foundation for Biomedical Research's (FBR) outreach campaign: "Love Animals? Support Animal Research."

FDA Commissioner's Response Following Visit to NCTR

Last Thursday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, visited the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) after the deaths of four squirrel monkeys in a nicotine research study were reported last year. As you’ll recall, FDA recently made the decision to permanently end the study. Gottlieb released an email after his visit to NCTR: “Although the questions asked by this research were important, the findings from our assessment of the conduct of that study raised concerns that required our intervention,” Gottlieb wrote. “I want to be clear on one thing: The issues related to this study do not diminish my confidence in NCTR, nor lessen my strong commitment to their ongoing work and the studies that we’ll continue to solicit.” Gottlieb addressed the numerous achievements NCTR has made in advancing the FDA’s public health mission, including their research on pediatric anesthetic use and evaluation of drug residue from veterinary antibiotic use. Gottlieb also addressed the role NCTR will play in achieving the goals of the FDA’s 2018 Strategic Priorities Roadmap, writing: “NTCR will be a big part of achieving these goals, and they will continue to enjoy my full confidence in their work, in their ethics, and in the critical role that they play in advancing FDA’s public health mission.”

NABR Responds to RFI by USDA on Regulatory Burden

On MondayNABR submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), using the agency’s RFI as an opportunity to provide feedback to the Regulatory Reform Task Force. NABR made several recommendations regarding the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that could ease the regulatory compliance burden for America’s researchers. To read the recommendations, please click here.

'Happy Lab Animals' Article in ScienceSparks Debate

An article published on Feb. 7 in Science Magazine titled “Are happy lab animals better for science?” has been widely discussed by many in the research community. The article, written by David Grimm, summarizes research into whether “happier lab animals” or animals living in larger confinements with enrichment objects, produce better or more balanced scientific results. Research cited in the article included laboratory animal enrichment studies conducted by the University of Michigan with rodents, rabbits, and zebrafish. These involved increased housing space for rodents with tubes and wheels for play, group housing for rabbits, and colorful marbles in the bottom of fish tanks. While supporters of lab animal enrichment tout the decreased stress the animals experience, as well as the link between the animals’ stress levels and their susceptibility to various illnesses, many scientists have concerns. In addition to the sizeable costs associated with enrichment, some are concerned that it could actually compromise research findings. In some cases, measures designed to improve lab animal enrichment could interfere with variables measured in the studies in which they are involved. The article has been criticized by users of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science’s (AALAS) email listserv, CompMed. Read the full article here.

Update on State Bills

Virginia Senate Bill 28, which targets funding for research involving dogs and cats, passed the Virginia Senate Feb. 9. The bill would prohibit money from the state’s general fund from supporting public or private research with dogs or cats that a.) is considered “medically unnecessary”, or b.) causes “significant pain or distress” to the animal. “Medically unnecessary” is defined as “not carried out solely for the better health, welfare, or safety of the animal subject.” Senators amended the bill to take out the $50,000 per-incident civil penalty. To the best of NABR’s knowledge, no public or private institutions in Virginia use state general funds for such research, rendering the bill’s current language largely preclusive.

Indiana’s Senate Bill 16, which aimed to introduce a requirement for all research facilities to adopt out dogs and cats that are no longer needed in research, failed last week. The bill did not meet the crossover deadline to advance. It was lobbied by the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP), an anti-animal research organization whose goal is to end all animal research and testing.

Joseph Buddenberg Released from Prison

Joseph Buddenberg, one of two animal rights activists convicted in 2013 for acts of vandalism and terrorism against people in the fur industry, was released from prison on Feb. 7. Buddenberg, along with Nicole Kissane, was convicted for vandalizing the homes and properties of fur industry workers, releasing thousands of mink, and selling stolen items to pay for their summer crime spree. Buddenberg will now begin serving two years of probation while residing in Hutto, Texas.

HSLF Publishes Annual 'Humane Scorecard of Congress'

The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) has published the “2017 Humane Scorecard – Midterm Report for the 115th Congress.” The report, published annually since 2005, details where U.S. Senators and Representatives fall on animal protection issues. The report encourages supporters to thank members of Congress for actively protecting animals, and urges representatives who scored poorly to “do better.” Interested to see where your representatives fall on HSLF’s animal protection spectrum? Click here to download the 2017 Humane Scorecard, and here to find your representative. Please note that HSLF’s scorecard did not include issues that pertain to animal research.

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