Legal Scholars Taking a Look at Chimps’ Personhood

The recent court cases brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) have started to garner attention, not only from animal activists and the research sector, but from the general public as well.  Recently, Matthew Goldberg, a Boston-area writer who has been featured in the Federalist and New Boston Post, wrote a thought-provoking opinion piece on the subject.

In his article, Goldberg discussed the difference between legal rights and duties, which was a major focus  of the court in its most recent decision. The court explained that NhRP’s personhood argument is specious—chimps cannot have the legal right to exist without potential use as research subjects precisely because they also cannot, for example, pay a parking ticket or serve a prison sentence for mauling another chimp (or human for that matter).

Goldberg addressed another argument by NhRP, that primate intelligence warrants legal personhood explaining the potential for the use of that precedent to deny rights to humans with limited intelligence or cognitive impairment.

The article seems to conflate rights—to which animals are entitled, as, for example, undergirds laws against animal cruelty—with full personhood, to which animals are not entitled because they are not capable of fulfilling the attendant legal duties.

Goldberg asked thoughtful questions in this piece, leaving room for more dialogue on the subject and possibly signifying increased public attention to and interest in personhood arguments (as will play out again in NhRP’s appeal).

Spending Bills Approved and Advanced on Capitol Hill

Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $20.5 billion agriculture spending bill. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act will fund programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for FY2018. The bill includes a $4.8 billion increase to the amount proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, but $7.9 billion less than the previous year’s funding level. Of interest to the animal research community is the allocation of $953.2 million for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency that regulates and inspects animal research laboratories. This is $143.2 million above Trump’s budget request for APHIS and $7 million above the funding level for FY2017. The bill was approved by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Also last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $156 billion Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for FY 2018. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Bill contains $21.6 billion more than the amount proposed by Trump and $34.7 billion more than the funding level for FY2018. The spending bill contains $35.2 billion for the NIH ($8.6 billion increase to the Trump’s budget proposal and $1.1 billion increase to FY 2017 allocation) and was approved by the subcommittee on July 13. The bill contains language that directs the NIH to develop a plan to speed up the process of transferring retired research chimpanzees to retirement sanctuaries.

Please stay tuned for more important updates from NABR during the Appropriations process.

NABR Releases FY2016 FOIA Analysis – Government Costs Increase

NABR has prepared a review of federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted by animal rights organizations in Fiscal Year 2016. FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits members of the public to submit requests for records in the possession of federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In FY 2016, both USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the NIH received a significant number of requests from animal rights activists. As outlined in further detail in NABR’s FY2016 FOIA Analysis (log-in required), these agencies received 12% more requests from animal rights groups than the previous year, and the cost for the government to respond to the requests increased by 20%.

NABR believes animal rights activists will continue to submit broad requests for large amounts of data about research facilities in FY 2017 in part because of the USDA’s decision on February 3 to temporarily remove the Animal Care Inspection Service (ACIS) database. NABR will continue to monitor FOIA requests submitted to federal agencies and, when possible, alert members if they are named in the requests. Research facilities should carefully review all information submitted to federal agencies. To read the full FY2016 FOIA Analysis, please click here (log-in required).

House Appropriations Committee Marks-Up FY18 Agriculture Appropriations Bill

Last Wednesday the full House Appropriations Committee considered the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for FY18 to fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was appropriated $906 million, $96 million more than the President’s requested amount, but $40 million short of the FY17 funding level. The FDA will receive $2.8 billion, the same as in FY17. The bill also appropriates $60 million to the FDA as part of the 21st Century Cures initiative enacted last winter. Including revenue from user fees, total funding for the FDA is $5.2 billion, $490 million more than in FY17. The USDA will not resume funding the renewal of Class B licensed dealers in FY18. The report requires that most of a $400,000 increase be used to establish an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The committee also addressed the February 3 removal of data from the USDA’s Animal Care Inspection System database, noting in the report that the USDA “must utilize the resources provided in this bill to promptly finish reviewing the information on its website, restore all legally permissible records previously removed, and resume posting on the USDA website.”

To read the FY18 agriculture appropriations bill, click here. The committee’s report on the bill can be found here.

House Labor-H Subcommittee Passes FY18 NIH Appropriations Bill

On Thursday, July 13, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY18 National Institutes of Health (NIH) appropriations bill. It now heads to the full committee for consideration.

The bill provides $34.6754 billion in base funding for the NIH and includes the full $496 million designated for FY18 in the NIH Innovation Account established in the 21st Century Cures Act, for $35.1714 billion in total FY18 funding. This marks a $1.1 billion increase from last year; the final FY17 omnibus provided $33.732 billion in base funding and $34.084 billion including money appropriated for 21st Century Cures. The bill rejects the President’s proposal with regards to facilities and administration expenses. The bill also specifies that, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to conduct or support research using human fetal tissue if such tissue is obtained pursuant to an induced abortion.” Critical research endeavors were also provided increases:

• $1.8 billion, a $400 million increase, for Alzheimer’s disease research
• $336 million, a $76 million increase, for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative
• $400 million, a $80 million increase, for the All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative)
• $300 million for the Cancer Moonshot
• $10 million, an $8 million increase, for regenerative medicine research
• $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller “Kids First” pediatric cancer research initiative.

Federal Bill Introduced to Prevent Veterans Administration from Using Dogs in Studies

Wednesday evening it was announced that Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA) and Dina Titus (D-NV) have introduced the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act of 2017, or PUPPERS Act.

Likely the result of recent attention on experiments by the Veterans Administration (VA) highlighted by the White Coat Waste (WCW) Project, the bill is relatively straightforward. The PUPPERS Act states the Secretary shall not “purchase, breed, transport, house, feed, maintain, dispose of, or experiment on dogs as part of the conduct of any study that causes significant pain or distress” by the VA. “Pain or distress” is defined in the legislation as research classified in category D or E by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Aside from Brat and Titus, the bill is currently sponsored by Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Dan Donovan (R-NY), and Brendan Boyle (D-PA). Click here to read more coverage in The Hill.

Dogs Get Cancer, Too

Did you know that companion animals, like dogs and cats, naturally develop many of the same diseases as humans? Statistics show that over 4.2 million dogs naturally develop cancer each year, in comparison to 1.7 million humans. Dogs are actually a very important model for studying diseases, such as cancer, because not only do many dogs naturally develop cancer in their lifetimes, but cancer tumors in dogs are similar to those found in humans affected with the disease. A recent Forbes article discusses the importance of dogs in the biomedical research community’s mission to find a cure for cancer in both humans and animals.

Dogs are also excellent models for cancer studies because they live in the same types of environments as humans, meaning they are exposed to the same bacteria, household products, noises and other stimuli as we are. Dogs also age more quickly than humans. Have you ever heard the saying, “1 human year equals 7 dog years?” Well, for studying diseases like cancer, this popular belief becomes useful. Because the lifespan of a dog is shorter, it experiences the different stages of cancer much more rapidly than humans. This allows researchers to collect invaluable data in a speedier manner than when collecting data from human cancer patients.

Mice, which make up ~95% of all animals used in biomedical research, are excellent models for most areas of research, but dogs provide a unique model for finding cures and treatments for cancer in both humans and animals.

Please follow this link to read the full Forbes story about the importance of dogs in finding a cure for cancer in humans and animals.

Dr. Francis Collins will Continue as NIH Director

President Donald Trump announced last night that Dr. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., will continue to serve as Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the Trump Administration. Collins, a physician-geneticist, has served in this role since 2009, leading the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the Cancer Moonshot, and other large research projects. Before his appointment as NIH Director by President Barack Obama in August 2009, Collins led the Human Genome Project.

“Dr. Collins has been, and will continue to be, a strong partner in making the case for a sustained federal commitment to medical research. I look forward to working with him to ensure NIH has the resources it needs to advance progress toward new, life-saving treatments and cures,” Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, stated in a press release.

Collins is the first NIH Director since the 1970s to serve under two presidents. Because he was confirmed by the Senate during the Obama Administration he will not need to be reconfirmed.

Click here to read the White House’s press release.

NIH Official Educates PETA About the Applicability of Animal Research

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), NABR has obtained a response from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to PETA regarding their recent letter which alleges the use of animals in federally-funded research is “misleading.”

PETA’s letter, dated April 5, expressed concern about applicability of animal research to humans and stated that “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports a 92 percent failure rate of clinical trials for new pharmaceutical drugs following preclinical success in animals.” The letter also referenced a recent PETA report that claims to highlight ways to reduce the federal budget by slashing animal research funding.

In the NIH’s response to PETA, Michael Lauer, M.D., Deputy Director for Extramural Research at the NIH, declared the importance of research with animals and explained that numerous medical advancements have resulted from research with animals including vaccines, blood transfusions, treatments for breast cancer and epilepsy, in vitro fertilization, organ transplants, and more.

Lauer specifically stated that “research using animal models continues to make significant contributions to human and animal health. Although research based on animal models needs to improve and has limitations, it is not justification for eliminating powerful tools that have arguably saved millions of Americans…In our view there is no consensus that animal models should be eliminated—rather, we want to build on prior successes and learn from prior failures.”

NIH’s response to PETA also described the strict federal and institutional regulations in place to ensure that animals are used only when necessary and that the well-being of animals is maximized.

Click here to read PETA’s letter and report. Click here to read NIH’s response.

Registration Open for NABR’s July Webinar “Q&A with the USDA”

Do you have questions about the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspection and reporting process? Join Drs. Elizabeth Meek and Bill Stokes, the USDA Eastern and Western Region Assistant Directors for Animal Welfare Operations, on July 18th for NABR’s most requested webinar, “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition.” NABR members will have the unique opportunity to ask questions directly to the leadership of Animal Care’s Animal Welfare Operations who are responsible for the oversight of the inspection and reporting process of animal research facilities.

A lot has happened surrounding the enforcement process since last year’s Q& A webinar. New terms, “critical noncompliance” and “focused inspection” have been introduced, and access to information on the inspection process has been changed. To better understand what impact these and other changes may have on your institution, take advantage of this unique opportunity provided only to NABR members.

Please submit your questions in advance to They will be reviewed and formatted to prevent duplication and will be answered in the order they are received. As per our policy, all questions will remain anonymous. The webinar is scheduled for one hour but we will continue the discussion until all questions have been addressed. Click here to register for this exclusive, Members Only webinar, “Q&A with the USDA: The Fifth Edition.”

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