Lawmakers are directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to end experiments on dogs, cats and primates by 2026.

Lawmakers are directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to end experiments on dogs, cats and primates by 2026. (Meredith Lee, Humane Society of the United States/Facebook)

WASHINGTON — Experiments and testing on cats, dogs and primates by the Department of Veterans Affairs must end by 2026 under newly enacted legislation that lawmakers highlighted during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

“I am proud to say that the Department of Veterans Affairs will be eliminating the use of research on animals within the next two years. We’re pushing the VA to find other scientific methods to conduct vital research and eliminate harmful testing on animals,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the top Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s subpanel on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies.

The legislation was part of the VA spending bill signed into law in March for fiscal 2024 and orders the VA to “implement a plan under which the VA secretary will eliminate research conducted using canines, felines, or non-human primates not later than two years after the date of enactment of this act.”

This represents the first time that Congress has directed a federal agency to completely end experimentation on certain animal species, according to the White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit watchdog that works to raise awareness about government research using animals.

“A growing majority of taxpayers — Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike — oppose wasteful government testing on pets and primates and don’t want to be forced to foot the bill,” said Justin Goodman, senior vice president at White Coat Waste Project.

The organization said the VA “has active proposals for conducting taxpayer-funded animal experiments at 98 different VA facilities across the U.S.”

The group contends the VA is seeking to conduct tests on cats before the 2026 deadline at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Ohio.

The VA said Thursday that it is reviewing the direction from Congress for eliminating research on cats, dogs and primates by 2026.

“We have made real progress on this important issue,” said Terrence Hayes, the VA press secretary.

He said the VA continues to explore alternatives to using cats, dogs and primates in experiments and is funding staff training on reducing live animal testing, among other initiatives.

Congress has sought to restrict VA spending for experiments on dogs, cats and primates since 2018. The efforts have drawn support from veterans in Congress and veterans organizations, including AMVETS.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issued a report in 2020 that specifically looked at VA experiments on dogs and criticized the VA for failing to seek alternatives, including advanced computer models and biotechnology. The report concluded most research on canines was “unnecessary.”

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Linda F. Hersey is a veterans reporter based in Washington, D.C. She previously covered the Navy and Marine Corps at Inside Washington Publishers. She also was a government reporter at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska, where she reported on the military, economy and congressional delegation.

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