Most VA Dog Experiments Deemed Unnecessary


NAVS has long advocated that dogs should not be subjected to unnecessary pain and experimentation. Yet every year, tens of thousands of dogs are used in such research in the United States alone. 

A recent report, written by experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), helped support our position by concluding that most of the recent experiments conducted on dogs by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were unnecessary. 

As NAVS first reported in October 2018, this committee was appointed by NASEM to conduct a study to determine “whether dogs are, or will continue to be, necessary for any type of research directly related to the mission of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.” It was prompted when investigations at VA facilities around the country revealed cruel and wasteful experiments on dogs. 

After a careful review, the committee concluded that laboratory dog research was “necessary” in “only a few areas of current U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) biomedical research,” such as cardiovascular and spinal cord research. They also indicated that animal research protocol forms were deficient in their justification for using dogs and the number of dogs used. For instance, some researchers’ main reasons for continued use of the dog model were their previous experience with dogs and historical data in dog models. The committee indicated, however, that “these justifications are insufficient alone and constitute a form of circular reasoning that perpetuates the use of laboratory dogs without adequate examination of alternatives.” 

The committee made a number of recommendations that would benefit laboratory dogs, including that the VA establish multidisciplinary collaborations to facilitate the development, validation and application of alternatives to using dogs in biomedical research, that research protocols and review processes involving dogs should be improved, and that the relationship between dog experiments and translated interventions for veterans should be tracked should be tracked. The committee also recommended steps aimed at improving the welfare of dogs used in research. 

We are pleased that this evaluation of dog use at the VA took place and that the committee concluded that these dog experiments were largely unnecessary. While we are disappointed that dog use was still deemed “necessary” in several areas, we are encouraged to see this discussion taking place at all, and we hope that it is another important step toward the eventual elimination of the use of dogs in science. We encourage other institutes and agencies to examine their own use of dogs, and other animals, as we believe similar conclusions would be reached.

The National Academies Press, “Necessity, Use, and Care of Laboratory Dogs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2020. 
Brulliard, K. “Dog experiments at VA necessary for ‘only a few areas of research,’ panel says in sweeping report,” Washington Post, July 1, 2020.