A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is demanding answers from top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci about reports that an institute under his leadership funded “cruel” drug toxicity experiments in dogs.
Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Documents show that NIAID spent $1.68 million in taxpayer funds for animal experimentation. The tests were conducted between October 2018 and February 2019 at SRI International, a research group headquartered in Menlo Park, California.
The experiment involved injecting and force-feeding 44 beagle puppies between six and eight months old with an experimental drug for several weeks, before killing and dissecting them. There also was experimentation on mice.
The documents (pdf) were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the White Coat Waste Project, a nonprofit government watchdog. The watchdog said that this marks the fourth experiment on beagles funded by NIAID that it has been able to uncover.
The House members, led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), called the experiment “unnecessary” in their letter to Fauci (pdf) on Oct. 21.
“While documents state that the ostensible purpose of this study was to ‘provide data of suitable quality and integrity to support the application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies,’ the FDA itself has recently stated that it ‘does not mandate that human drugs be studied in dogs,'” they told Fauci.
Procedure Stops Dogs From Barking
The lawmakers also expressed horror at a procedure used in the experiment. They noted that an invoice to NIAID involved an item called a “cordectomy,” also known as devocalization or de-barking. The procedure involves slitting a dog’s vocal cords to remove its ability to bark, howl, or cry.
“This cruel procedure … seems to have been performed so that experimenters would not have to listen to the pained cries of the beagle puppies,” the 24 legislators said. “This is a reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds.”
They asked Fauci, “Why has NIAID contracted for cordectomies when they appear to be scientifically and medically unnecessary? What is the average cost for each cordectomy performed?”
Lawmakers are also asking how many drug experiments involving dogs have been funded by NIAID since January 2018 and how much taxpayer funding has been used.
They are also asking why the NIAID continued to fund testing involving dogs when the FDA has said such tests aren’t required. “What has NIAID done to explore the use of non-canine and non-animal alternatives to meet FDA requirements?” they said.
Lawmakers are also seeking information surrounding whether NIAID ever made the dogs available for adoption after the experiments. They demand the answers by Nov. 9.
A previous investigation by the White Coat Waste Project found that NIAID directed $424,455 to an experiment at the University of Georgia in September 2020 that involved infecting beagles with parasites to test an experimental drug on them, before killing them.
In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, NIAID acknowledged concerns raised over the latest experiment uncovered by the White Coat Waste Project.
“There … are concerns raised about work involving beagles under an NIAID contract for preclinical pharmacology and toxicology services,” NIAID said. “Under this contract, the contractor conducts testing as required in animal models by the FDA, in compliance with Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) guidelines and in a facility accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) or its equivalent.
“Vocal cordectomies, conducted humanely under anesthesia, may be used in research facilities where numerous dogs are present. This is to reduce noise, which is not only stressful to the animals but can also reach decibel levels that exceed OSHA allowable limits for people and can lead to hearing loss.”
In response to the White Coat Waste Project’s allegations at the University of Georgia, NIAID said that the research “focuses on lymphatic filariasis (LF), a mosquito-transmitted parasitic disease that affects millions of people in many countries around the world.”
NIAID said that no licensed prophylactic vaccine is available to prevent LF and defended its experiment at the University of Georgia, saying the vaccine candidate under investigation could potentially could be used to prevent LF in humans as well as filarial infections, including heartworm, in dogs.
“Dogs are a natural host for the B. pahangi parasite and exhibit clinical and pathologic changes like those seen in human filarial infection. As such, they represent an appropriate model for testing this investigational vaccine prior to evaluation in humans.”
In its statement, NIAID said that animals used in NIH-funded research are “protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare.”
It adds that institutions receiving funds must conduct research that involves animals in accordance with the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
“The proposed use of animals in research is evaluated during peer review for both contract and grant proposals, and animals used in research are to be provided with appropriate anesthesia and veterinary care. The principles for what is—and is not—allowed are governed both by regulations administered by the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and the grantee institution’s animal care and use committee (IACUC).”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with statements issued by NIAID.