American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): Animal Research is “Key to Improving Animal Health and Welfare”

Just a couple of days ago, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which represents over 89,000 veterinarians, reached out to key policymakers sounding-off on the essential need for animals in biomedical research.

To set the record straight on the importance of animals to save lives, improve lives, and decrease suffering for both humans and animals, the AVMA sent letters to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

AVMA’s news release notes, “The AVMA will continue to work with lawmakers to educate them on the importance of biomedical research, including biomedical research that requires the use of animal models.”

To read AVMA’s full release, please click here. AVMA’s policy on the use of animals in research can also be found on their website.

More Veterans, Science Groups Tell Congress: Don’t End Funding for VA’s Research with Canines

More veterans organizations as well as medical and scientific groups have stated their opposition against proposals by Reps. Dave Brat (R-VA), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Dina Titus (D-NV) to cease funding for important medical research studies involving canines at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN), National Defense Committee, Square Deal for VeteransAmerican Brain Coalition (ABC) and the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) have shared letters of opposition to H.R. 3197 (the PUPPERS Act) and a similar amendment to the House-passed homeland security minibus.

So far, those now against these proposals include:

American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS)
American Brain Coalition (ABC)
The American Legion
American Physiological Society (APS)
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN)
Friends of VA (FOVA)
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
National Defense Committee
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
Square Deal for Veterans
VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)

Dogs are rarely used in research but sometimes they are the best model for specific studies because of factors like physiological similarities. All research, including research with dogs, is covered by strict oversight at institutions and by the federal government, and animal welfare is a top priority.

Research with dogs has been and continues to be influential in developing new drugs, therapies, and treatments for humans and animals. Of the top 25 most prescribed medications, 22 were developed with research involving dogs; and canines are on the front lines of everything from cardiology, cancer, diabetes, late-stage eye disease and spina bifida research.

To read the letters of oppositions from the organizations above, please click on the hyperlinks.

Registration Now Open for NABR’s Next Webinar!

Are administrative and regulatory burden affecting your institution? Join NABR and special guest Dr. Sally Thompson-Iritani, Director of the Office of Animal Welfare at the University of Washington, on November 7, 2017 for an exclusive webinar, "Reducing Burden: Options and Opportunities." Members of your Animal Care and Use Program (ACUP) are encouraged to attend.

Dr. Thompson-Iritani has played a key role in the development of a program called Compliance Unit Standard Procedure (CUSP). The goal of this project is to create a repository where participating institutions can share standard substances and procedures to be used in animal care and use protocols with the broader animal welfare compliance community. To date, the participating institutions have developed almost 1,000 standard substances and 700 standard procedures that will populate the site as a starting database. Having access to the database offers all those involved with the preparation and review of proposed activities involving animal research a valuable resource which can be used to reduce the administrative burden on investigators and members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and IACUC support staff.

During the webinar we will also review the opportunities provided by the language in the 21st Century Cures Act and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) request to Identify Regulatory Reform Initiatives to address the issue of regulatory and administrative burden at your institution.

Registration is now open for this exclusive, NABR members-only opportunity.

Friends of VA Publicly Opposes Defunding VA Dog Studies

On Friday, Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) sent a letter to Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) and Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Appropriations, opposing an amendment passed in the homeland security minibus that would prohibit funding at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for certain studies involving dogs.

FOVA is a coalition of more than 80 national academic, medical, and scientific societies, voluntary health and patient advocacy groups, and veteran service organizations dedicated to providing veterans with high-quality care. FOVA believes “The policy included in the appropriations bill will impede scientific research and unnecessarily delay research advances for our nation’s veterans.”

The amendment to the minibus was introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) and passed by the House of Representatives in July. It contains similar language as House standalone bill H.R. 3197, the PUPPERS Act, which would prevent Class D and E studies from being performed at the VA, a move that could set the precedent for a prohibition against the use of dogs in all biomedical research. The legislation is troubling, as it could represent the first time Congress has prohibited the use of an animal species in scientific/medical studies, and it could lead to future laws that target additional species of research animals. The studies performed by the VA involving dogs are critically important in the search for treatments for diseases that impact the veterans’ community and civilians, and are strictly regulated.

As mentioned above, there are two pieces of House legislation that, if signed into law, would limit the use of dogs at the VA. The first piece of legislation is Brat's amendment to the homeland security minibus, a spending bill that would need to be reauthorized each year. The second piece of legislation is a standalone bill that would serve as a more permanent prohibition of certain dog studies at the VA. Although the House amendment to the homeland security minibus was passed in July, the House standalone bill has not yet been considered by the Veterans' Affairs Committee. A Senate standalone companion bill has not been introduced either. Congress is currently in recess until after Labor Day.

Stars and Stripes, a publication widely read by the military community, published a story yesterday about FOVA’s letter. The publication touts a readership of more than one million per day, including “active-duty service members, DoD civilians, contractors, and their families.”

To read FOVA’s letter, please click here. We encourage you to share the letter as well as the Stars and Stripes’ article on your social media pages to help educate the public and policy makers about this harmful legislation.

USDA Asks for Input on AWA Licensing Requirements

This morning the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published in the Federal Register an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking and request for public comments regarding procedures for applying for licenses and renewals at the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The notice in the Federal Register states, “We are soliciting public comment on potential revisions to the licensing requirements under our Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to promote compliance with the Act, reduce licensing fees, and strengthen existing safeguards that prevent any individual whose license has been suspended or revoked, or who has a history of noncompliance, from obtaining a license or working with regulated animals. We are soliciting public comment on these topics to help us consider ways to reduce regulatory burden and more efficiently ensure the sustained compliance of licensees with the Act.”

The notice outlines several changes regarding licensing requirements that are under consideration by the USDA, such as eliminating license application fees and annual license fees, requiring applicants to disclose animal cruelty violations, and specifying procedures so licensees have time to apply for licenses.

The USDA invites the public to provide data and information regarding potential economic effects, alternatives to reduce regulatory burden, and suggestions to ensure the compliance of licensees with the AWA.

Additionally, the USDA’s notice calls for comments on four questions, which are excerpted below in full:

  1. Should we propose to establish a firm expiration date for licenses (such as 3-5 years) and if so, what should that date be and why? Please provide supporting data.
  2. What fees would be reasonable to assess for licenses issued? Are the existing license fees (9 CFR 2.6) reasonable, or should they be adjusted to take additional factors into consideration, such as the type of animals used in regulated activities? Please provide data in support of any proposed adjustments to the license fees.
  3. In addition to the existing prohibitions on any person whose license has been suspended or revoked from buying, selling, transporting, exhibiting, or delivering for transportation animals during the period of suspension or revocation (9 CFR 2.10(c)), should such persons be prohibited from engaging in other activities involving animals regulated under the AWA, such as working for other AWA-regulated entities or using other individual names or business entities to apply for a license? Please suggest specific activities that should be covered and provide supporting data and information.
  4. Do you have any other specific concerns or recommendations for reducing regulatory burdens involving the licensing process or otherwise improving the licensing requirements under the AWA?

The announcement of this notice coincides with the 51st anniversary of the AWA. Public comments may be submitted online or in writing through October 23, 2017. Comments will be available for public viewing after submission. NABR plans to submit comments and we encourage your institution to do so as well.

USDA Calls for Public Comments on Regulatory Reform

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a notice in the Federal Register requesting comments from the public about the regulatory burden they have experienced and ideas for regulatory reform at the department. Specifically, USDA is looking for “public ideas on regulations, guidance documents, or any other policy documents that are in need of reform, for example ideas to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal those items.”

Public comments will be accepted in four batches over a one-year period; the deadline for the first batch is September 15. The second batch of comments is due on November 14. The third and fourth batches are due on February 12, 2018 and July 17, 2018, respectively. NABR is planning to submit comments during the November batch and we encourage your institution to submit comments as well.

The questions below have been excerpted in full from the USDA’s notice in the Federal Registrar:

  1. Are there any regulations that should be repealed, replaced, or modified?
  2. For each regulation identified in question number 1, please identify whether the regulation:
    1. Results in the elimination of jobs, or inhibits job creation;
    2. Is outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
    3. Imposes costs that exceed benefits;
    4. Creates a serious inconsistency or otherwise interferes with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
    5. Is inconsistent with the requirements or regulations of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), which requires that agencies maximize the quality, objectivity, and integrity of the information (including statistical information) they disseminate; or
    6. Derives from or implements Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.
  3. Are there any existing USDA requirements that duplicate or conflict with requirements of another Federal agency? Can the requirement be modified to eliminate the conflict?
  4. What are the estimated total compliance costs of the USDA regulations to which you or your organization must comply? This should include the costs of complying with information collections, recordkeeping, and other requirements subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Comments may be submitted electronically, by mail, hand delivery, or courier. The USDA has requested that submitters please specify “Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives” in the comment for submission. To read the full notice in the Federal Register and to submit comments, please click here.

Paralyzed Veterans of America Explains the Importance of Dog Studies at the VA

Sherman Gillums Jr., Executive Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) published an op-ed in The Hill yesterday in strong opposition to legislation that would hinder medical advancements for disabled veterans. “For a veteran facing a lifetime of paralysis after suffering a spinal cord injury, hope is often the last thing to die. Yet, the recently introduced House bill, H.R. 3197, threatens to crush what little hope to which I, and the approximately 60,000 veterans living with spinal cord injury, cling. The act proposes to reduce investment in medical research, and the reason is as simple as it is controversial: animal research.”

Introduced in July by Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), H.R.3197 would effectively eliminate important research with dogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. An amendment to the homeland security minibus serving the same purpose was passed by the full House last month. This legislation has serious implications for veterans because research with dogs has led to life-saving and life-improving treatments for veterans suffering from spinal cord injuries, heart conditions, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, and other diseases experienced through military service.

“The VA has a responsibility to consistently find new and better ways of treat America’s heroes. Animal research helps the department do that. The program has helped save and improve countless lives, and it will continue to do so—unless ideology, and in some cases extremism on the issue of animal rights, succeed in forcing the public's attention away from VA waiting rooms, inpatient wards, and rehabilitation gyms across the country. This is where the price of wars across several eras can be seen almost daily, as well as where medicine and science find their ripest opportunities.”

For more information about the importance of dogs in research, please click here.

To read the letter, click here.

USDA FOIA Logs Posted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published on its website a list of all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that were submitted to the department in 2017. NABR is analyzing the documents and will report any findings of interest to the biomedical research community.

FOIA was enacted in 1966 to promote transparency and ensure accountability of government officials and agencies. The law permits the public to request records owned by federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To review NABR’s analysis of FY 2016 FOIA requests from animal rights groups please click here (log-in required).

NABR President Rebuts PETA Letter to The Hill

As you’ll recall, last week shortly after National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins said in an interview that “Animals are still crucial to our understanding of how biology works,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) fired back with a letter to The Hill calling for a systematic review of animal studies at the NIH. This letter, “A need to rethink spending on animal-based research at NIH,” is part of PETA’s call to defund the NIH because of its use of animal models in lifesaving and live-improving research.

Today, NABR’s President Matt Bailey penned a response letter to The Hill discussing not only the benefits of animal research in medical discovery from conditions like HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer, and Alzheimer’s, but covering the immense economic impact of taxpayer funded studies. The United States’ investment in research, specifically with the NIH, supports 350,000 jobs and produced $60 billion in new economic activity in 2015.

Take a moment to read Bailey’s letter and share it with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media and encourage others to do the same.

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.

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