- The FDA announced plans on Friday to begin researching ways to reduce and potentially eliminate canine testing.
- The announcement comes on the heels of a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue its controversial tests on dogs.
- As the VA faces increased pressure to reverse its position, Secretary Robert Wilkie says the tests will continue until he sees proof that they are ineffective.
The FDA announced Friday it will begin research with the aim of reducing – and potentially eliminating – animal research using dogs.
The agency plans on a study that will establish “one non-animal based model,” which if successful will eliminate the need to conduct invasive blood sampling, which sometimes results in the need to euthanize the canine test subject.
“The agency is optimistic that cultivating these types of new research approaches can help continue to reduce the need for animal testing,” wrote Scott Gottlieb, FDA commissioner.
The announcement comes on the heels of a controversial decision by Robert Wilkie, secretary of Veterans Affairs, that the agency will continue the practice. The VA decision sparked outrage by veterans groups and animal rights activists, who along with lawmakers have increased pressure on the agency to stop harmful tests on dogs.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Wilkie defended the experiments, saying the practice could lead to medical breakthroughs that will help veterans. Wilkie said that inventions such as cardiac pacemakers, the first successful liver transplant and cardiac ablation were breakthroughs borne out of canine research and testing.
“We have an opportunity to change the lives of men and women who have been terribly hurt, and until somebody tells me that that research does not help in that outcome, then I’ll continue,” Wilkie told the press.
Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy for the watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, says the VA’s canine testing is not only a waste of public resources, but that it also breaks from trends in the research industry, which for decades has taken steps to reduce harmful procedures.
Since 1986 any agency in the United Kingdom wishing to conduct testing on canines must hold a special license, and reports show that in 2017, canine testing dropped as much as 22 percent from the year before.
Canada ended mandatory year-long pesticide studies with dogs in 2016, amid “strong, growing consensus” that the studies are unnecessary, according to CBC.
One of the organizations within that consensus is the US Environmental Protection Agency, which eliminated the same one-year study as early as 2007.
If successful, the FDA’s new study may provide an alternative research method for agencies, like the VA, that do not include harming animals.
Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, who introduced legislation aimed at ending harmful canine research procedures at the VA, praised the announcement Friday as a new standard for the industry to follow.
“This progressive move stands in stark contrast to the VA’s insistence on continuing outdated dog testing,” Titus said in a statement.
“I hope Secretary Wilkie takes note.”