Budget Discussions Bring Legislative Optimism for Animals

two beagle dog on a green grass

Anyone following national news of late is probably getting tired of hearing about the federal budget, and that’s fair. The budget process seems to drag out longer every year, and much of it doesn’t make sense to those of us outside Capitol Hill.

To bring some optimism to the process, we’d like to highlight just a few promising budget considerations that, if included in the final 2022 budget package, could have big, positive effects for lab animals. 

Retiring (Finally!) ALL Chimpanzees

Back in 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) made a groundbreaking announcement that it would no longer be using chimpanzees for invasive biomedical research. The announcement cleared the way for hundreds of animals to be retired to the national chimpanzee sanctuary system following a Congressional directive that “surplus” chimps be moved to sanctuary.

While many chimps were able to find some semblance of normalcy and peace as a result of their transfer to sanctuaries, in 2019 the NIH announced that due to advanced age and health concerns some chimps living at the Alamogordo Primate Facility would actually not be moved to sanctuary. Additionally, there are still chimps awaiting sanctuary at the Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research and the Southwest National Primate Research Center.

In welcome news, this year both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees included directives to the NIH to finally transfer all chimps that were previously used in government funded research to sanctuaries. In a clear rebuttal to the NIH’s reasoning for keeping some chimps in labs, the Senate Committee specifically stated that, “it is because of their health and long history of laboratory use that makes it urgent they be provided an opportunity to live the remainder of their lives in sanctuary, even if for a short period.”

Advancing Human-Relevant Scientific Models

In a nod to the importance of investing in scientific models that use human biology to produce results relevant to human health, the House Appropriations Committee included in its report for the Health and Human Services appropriations bill a directive for the NIH to create a Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing. The center would be responsible for developing, promoting and funding alternatives to animal testing in research, and for developing a plan for reducing the number of animals used in federally funded research and testing.

If included in the final budget, this directive would create the first federal agency focused solely on developing scientific models that don’t utilize animals.

The appropriations process is one way to create the Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing, but because no such directive was included in the Senate appropriations language, NAVS is working on another angle to see the Center become a reality. Passage of The Humane Research and Testing Act (H.R. 1744) would create the Center with the same objective as that stated in the appropriations bill. Contact your federal representative and ask that they support H.R. 1744, the Humane Research and Testing Act.

Excluding Funding for Primate Research

Earlier this year, NAVS was dismayed to learn that the Biden Administration requested $30 million in funding for enhanced infrastructure at National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs). The funding would be used to increase breeding and housing of nonhuman primates and create a “stockpile” of monkeys for use in biomedical and other research.

So far in the appropriations process, the House has refused to designate any money for the expansion of NPRCs; the Senate, however, has earmarked $20 million for the expansion. As the House and Senate reconcile their spending for NPRCs, we hope to see infrastructure spending be reduced or eliminated from consideration. d

Ask your members of Congress to exclude additional funding of NPRC’s from the 2022 budget.

Ending Dog Experiments at the VA

When it comes to painful experiments on dogs funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the House and Senate appropriations committees agree: those experiments need to stop. The directive to end the use of dogs in most research by the VA comes after a sweeping report released in July 2021 that found dog experiments at the VA to be necessary “only for a few areas of research.”

The reports out of the two committees differ in how to determine when the use of dogs in research by the VA is appropriate, but the overall effect would be to see the VA use dogs very sparingly in research, rather than as a go-to model.

The fact that this directive came from both chambers of Congress makes us hopeful that we will see some version of it in the final budget. NAVS will continue to urge Congress to end the use of dogs as experimental models by the VA and every other federal agency.

Increasing Accountability 

Lack of accountability around the number and type of animals used in research, as well as around how those animals are used, has long been a thorn in the side of animal advocates working to get animals out of labs. In some encouraging news, appropriation reports from both the Senate and the House include directives to the NIH to increase transparency around the use of animals in research that it funds. Beyond better reporting and tracking is a directive to also make the information it collects on animals in research more publicly accessible. As we celebrate the pro-animal provisions the committees agreed to include in their respective appropriations bills, we will be applying pressure to see that these measures survive the appropriations process and hold strong in the final 2022 budget package.