- - Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Nobody likes torturing dogs, or even cats, and the Veterans Administration is under pressure to stop certain experiments. The opposition to the program is even bipartisan, which makes the legislation a rare animal in Washington, where even celebrating the decline in black unemployment is a celebration too far for rabidly partisan Democrats lest President Trump get credit for good fortune.

Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, a Republican favorite of the Tea Party, and Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada, a Democrat, have written the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species, which for verbal convenience they call the PUPPERS Act, to prohibit, among certain procedures, inducing heart attacks and other cardiac ailments in hound puppies, forcing them to run on treadmills to stress their damaged hearts, and drilling into beagle skulls in search of information about their brains. None of it is medically necessary. Exceptions are made for certain clearly measured non-invasive procedures.

By law the Veterans Administration must focus on service-related research, and it’s not clear what the brain of a hound can tell researchers anything useful about a veteran of the nation’s wars who only wants help with his health. The VA has yet to identify a single medical advancement focused on veterans that has resulted from nearly a century of torturing dogs.

In a PulsePoint Poll last September a majority of veterans and their families support the Brat-Titus legislation. Several veterans’ organizations have endorsed the legislation. Such endorsements should not be controlling, but they measure public opinion.

Other government agencies are thinking again about the value of animal testing. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has stopped, at least temporarily, research into the effects of nicotine on humans after four monkeys used in the study died. He ordered a full review of the project.

The FDA officials who led the review found, as Dr. Gottleib explained, evidence that “the study was not consistent with the agency’s high animal-welfare standards, and why the agency has not permanently ended this study, and will place the monkeys involved in a new permanent sanctuary home, which will provide them with appropriate long-term care.”

Dr. Gottleib said the FDA would strengthen protocols for animal research “to better ensure the welfare of animals” in its care. The use of animals in medical research is perfectly legitimate if it is done humanely, and in pursuit of clearly legitimate aims in behalf of humans. Animals are of a lower order, which makes them legitimate subjects for medical research. This puts the responsibility for humane care and procedure squarely on humans, including humans at the Veterans Administration. Cruelty is never a legitimate option.

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