Even puppies are subjected to a wide range of torture, including forced heart attacks. Finally, Congress is seeking answers.
Last week—following criticism from bipartisan Congress members, citizens, press, and advocacy groups like the White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit that seeks to eliminate cruel, wasteful and unnecessary taxpayer-funded animal testing—the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to reverse course on its unjustifiable animal welfare database blackout. It started by restoring documents about government and other animal laboratories. This is a crucial resource, but we’re still fighting systemic government transparency failures about $15 billion in wasteful taxpayer-funded experimentation on dogs and other animals.
Months before the recent USDA purge—a scandal first exposed by WCW—we released “Spending to Death,” a report documenting cruel and unnecessary government dog experiments, and a troubling abundance of secrecy about the practice and what it costs.
As reported in the Washington Post, we used the now-notorious USDA animal welfare database to reveal that agencies—including Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and others—subjected more than 1,100 dogs to experiments in 2015. The USDA data indicated that this number had increased from the year before, and that one quarter of these dogs were subjected to experiments involving pain and distress. These basic figures are not available elsewhere, so it’s encouraging that USDA is in the process of restoring access to these documents. For non-federal animal laboratories, the database also includes evidence of any abuses documented by government inspectors, which can be grounds for losing taxpayer funding.
However, beyond the animal use numbers on the USDA site (which notably exclude mice and rats, who comprise 95 percent of animals used in laboratories), other publicly-available details about how dogs and other animals are used are scarce. It is estimated that across the nation, federal agencies are funding the abuse and death of tens of millions of animals in laboratories every year.
We did triangulate some information to determine that government agencies are purchasing months-old beagle, hound and mutt puppies and subjecting them to abuses including forced heart attacks and tick infestations. But overall, with very few exceptions, the agencies using tax money for painful and deadly dog experiments fail to disclose what they are doing, how much they are spending, the purpose or the outcome. In many cases, it appears agencies intentionally omit or obscure information to prevent scrutiny.
Our top recommendation in the report: “Provide Transparency.”
A beagle confined in standard caging in a U.S. laboratory awaits his eventual torture and death. Federal agencies subjected more than 1,100 dogs to experiments in 2015 alone. An estimated 100 million animals are tortured and killed by agencies across the nation each year. (image: White Coat Waste Project)
Thankfully, we attracted the attention of Congress. Citing our work, a bipartisan group led by Reps. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Dina Titus (D-NV) asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an audit of systems for public disclosure about federally-funded animal experiments. In their December GAO request, they wrote: “Such transparency and accounting deficiencies prevent assessments by Congress and the public of the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of what we estimate to be a multi-billion-dollar government enterprise.”