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MAGA for Man’s Best Friend

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

For conservatives, the recent blockbuster $1.2 trillion government spending bill signed by President Trump brought mixed results. But one cost-cutting item in the omnibus that Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike are applauding is a defund of painful and needless taxpayer-funded lab experiments on dogs at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Since most associate the VA with providing care and services to veterans—or its attempts to do so—people are usually shocked to learn from our taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project that the VA has used more dogs in deadly experiments than any other agency and that it costs you and me millions of dollars.

In a Fox News column, combat-wounded Marine Corps veteran Johnny “Joey” Jones explained that the VA’s testing on dogs entails, “injecting latex into the arteries of five-month-old hound puppies to induce heart attacks, and cutting up nine-month-old hounds. Some of the research involves causing dogs excruciating pain without any relief. The VA is apparently the only federal agency doing this category of extreme tests on dogs.”

It’s not just that this is cruel, it’s unnecessary. American Veterans (AMVETS), one of the nation’s largest veterans’ groups, is among the many organizations that have been advocating for an end to this waste and abuse.  In a February letter to Congress, AMVETS wrote, “the VA can make better use of its limited research funding by phasing out the unproductive dog testing that AMVETS members oppose and has left wounded and disabled veterans with fading hope by failing to produce significant breakthroughs over the last few decades.”

Disdain for this publicly-funded puppy abuse is widespread. On the 700 Club a few weeks ago, evangelical icon Pat Robertson commented during a segment on the scandal that, “Some of this looks like it’s horrible. If it tortures dogs – that’s not a good thing to use our taxpayer money for.” He’s not alone. A February 2018 national poll found that 66 percent of voters, and more Republicans than Democrats, favor cutting funds for the VA’s dog testing.

Even former VA Secretary David Shulkin—a physician and once a leading proponent of the dog testing—told a reporter before he left his cabinet post, “I am not a strong believer in the need for canine research” and began to implement restrictions on the practice. Yet, entrenched forces in the agency—including senior staffers and career dog experimenters making six-figure, taxpayer-funded salaries—have attempted to undermine efforts to end this brutal and pointless program.

Enter President Trump and Congress. After a year of pressure on VA from our 400,000-plus members, a Republican-led coalition of Congress members, veterans, and the media, lawmakers got fed up with the VA’s inaction and included language in the 2018 omnibus spending bill that cut funding for the VA’s dog experiments, save for very rare circumstances that need the Secretary’s personal approval.  Longtime Donald Trump adviser and dog-lover Roger Stone called it, “A terrific victory tucked well within the omnibus spending bill signed by Donald Trump.” 

The funding is cut until September, and now it’s up to POTUS’s next VA Secretary, whomever that may end up being, to permanently get the embattled agency out of the wasteful dog torture business and back to its mandate of caring for veterans.

Kudos to Congress and President Trump for ensuring efforts to MAGA include not forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for the senseless abuse of animals that most Americans consider beloved members of the family. 

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