Washington Update

FASEB Letters Underscore Role of Animal Research at the VA

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, March 24, 2021

On March 22, FASEB submitted two letters to Departmental and Congressional leadership discussing the importance of animal research conducted at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The letters to VA Secretary Denis McDonough and Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Ranking Member John Carter (R-TX) of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon VA) emphasize the role of animal research in numerous health advances. For example, VA-funded canine research led to the development of the cardiac pacemaker and, more recently, a cough stimulator which assists veterans with spinal cord injuries to breathe without a ventilator and cough effectively.

Recognizing that several research areas pertinent to veteran health such as traumatic brain injury, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases require large animal translational models, FASEB’s letter to VA Secretary McDonough urges strengthened support for the agency’s animal research programs to fulfill the agency’s mission and enable continued-life-saving treatments for veterans and all Americans. Similar justifications are outlined in the letter to the House MilCon VA Appropriations Subcommittee leadership.

The letter to Congressional leadership also specifically requests that the Subcommittee reject language prohibiting canine, feline, and nonhuman primate research conducted at the VA. This language has become commonplace in House appropriations packages over the last several years, despite its contradiction to scientific recommendations. A recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report concluded that canine research at the VA is scientifically necessary for the foreseeable future, particularly for cardiovascular and spinal cord injury studies.

Both letters build upon FASEB’s ongoing advocacy efforts to promote the humane use and care of animals in research, including at the VA. Visit the VA’s website to learn more about its animal research program and FASEB’s resources for more details about animal research’s role in sustaining biomedical progress.