Washington Update

Dog Research under Review at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, December 20, 2018

Last weekend, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) held the first of seven meetings where a comprehensive review of research studies involving canines conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will occur.

In August, the VA partnered with NASEM’s Institute for Laboratory Animal Research to conduct a study entitled “Assessment of the Care and Use of Dogs in Research Funded by or Conducted at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.” A committee comprised of 12 individuals from various backgrounds, including veterinary science, animal ethics, and biomedical research, met on December 9 to begin reviewing the canine research portfolio and will ultimately determine whether canines are necessary for future government-funded studies. Five active studies involving approximately 100 dogs are underway in VA labs.

VA staff presented the scientific basis for canine models, and the thorough review process the agency must complete if a research proposal is selected for funding. “This process often takes the better part of a year,” stated Alice Huang, PhD (Central Office Veterinary Medical Office), who went on to describe how the review process for canine research extends beyond minimum regulatory requirements.

VA Chief Medical Officer Michael Fallon, DVM, PhD, emphasized that, “shutting down VA dog research would deny veterans the most promising advances of treatment.” Fallon noted that canine research represents less than one percent of the department’s $720 million fiscal year 2018 research budget.

The committee plans to release two reports following completion of the review, one in fall 2019 and one in May 2020.