In a new letter featured in USA Today, retired U.S. Navy physician Rear Admiral Marion Balsam writes that based on her quarter-century of treating troops and their families–including as the Commander of Naval Medical Center-Portsmouth and other medical facilities–the VA’s experiments on dogs are wasteful and unlikely to help veterans.
Read the full letter below, and then write your Congress members and urge them to support the bipartisan PUPPERS Act to end taxpayer funding for the most painful dog experiments at the VA.
As a retired rear admiral in the Navy Medical Corps, I have great respect for Secretary David Shulkin’s work for veterans, but his uncritical defense of the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) controversial dog research is of concern.
Throughout my career as a military physician, I worked to improve the health of servicemembers and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the military health care system.
One area where I continue to see significant waste and abuse is government animal research — and the VA’s painful dog experiments are no exception. Experimenting on dogs and other animals is slow, expensive and very rarely applies to humans. Research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal documents this problem. It translates into billions of wasted tax dollars each year.
During the past decade, there has been enormous progress using non-animal types of research. Just because the VA has used dogs for experiments in the past doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to do research to help veterans in 2017.
Leading civilian, federal and military facilities — acknowledging the wastefulness and lack of applicability of animal-based research — are actively developing and using more efficient and humane research technologies. For veterans’ and dogs’ sake, the VA should do the same.
Marion J. Balsam, M.D., former rear admiral of the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy; Bethesda, Md.