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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Kristi Soto: Time for U.S. to move beyond animal testing

By Kristi Soto

By Kristi Soto

The Spokane Humane Society is one of many organizations working to find homes for 4,000 beagles who are in dire need of a good home because a dog breeding facility in Virginia, called Envigo, was recently shut down by authorities. Envigo was shut down because of the documented horrific conditions and proven longstanding neglect of animals supposedly in their care.

Our nonprofit has taken in 25 dogs, but there are still many more animals who need help. I implore readers to go a bit deeper into this story and consider why we even still test on live animals.

It was national news when these 4,000 beagles were made homeless (if you can call the dog factory a home), once Envigo was forced to shut its doors because of multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act. Apparently Envigo, with its parent company Inotiv, had a long history of failure to notice or even care that the multitude of dogs in their cages were in distress from malnutrition, overbreeding and overcrowding.

Envigo had employed just one veterinarian for 5,000 dogs, making even the most minimal veterinary care an impossibility.

This heartbreaking story, along with the fact that Envigo is the second largest supplier of laboratory animals in our country, should make all of us question the supply chain and the supposed need to use live animals in the lab. And it’s not just beagles. The mistreatment of tens of thousands of other animals including monkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and hamsters are at risk.

Many people do not realize that our country is still blindly following a 1938 requirement under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to test all new drug protocols on animals. But data shows that drugs that pass animal tests largely fail to be safe or effective in humans; adverse drug reactions are the fourth highest cause of death in our country today.

In 1938 there may have not been alternatives, but in recent decades, we’ve seen an explosion in advanced human cellular models designed to evaluate diseases and develop drug treatments without flawed animal tests. Testing on animals is no longer just inhumane, it’s now grossly inferior to these human-based models.

The rescue of the Envigo beagles from a life of pain in drug testing underscores an effort currently underway in Congress to change the current drug development paradigm and its overreliance on animal tests.

This is precisely why the Spokane Humane Society has joined nearly 200 animal welfare, pharmaceutical, patient and medical groups to change this outdated law. The FDA Modernization Act would lift the mandate for animal tests and allow scientists to use the best testing strategy in new drug and vaccine development, including modern methods that spare animals.

This legislation would also save costs and speed up the amount of time it takes for good medicine to reach patients, because animal testing is costly and requires a lot of bureaucratic time.

The politics are a bit complicated, but today the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are going to have to work to reconcile their respective legislation that addresses language in a larger legislative package that includes the FDA Modernization Act. Our Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House, and our Sen. Patty Murray is the chair of the powerful Senate HELP Committee. It is our plea that they push this transformative legislative effort across the finish line.

I can only imagine the fear, pain and suffering endured by animals used for research, and now we know for certain that suffering starts before live animals reach the lab. We must enact and enforce national policies to usher in 21st-century science and to make animal testing the exception rather than the rule.

Please join me today in encouraging our Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Patty Murray to step up and support this vital bill to usher in a new age of drug development that will deliver medicines faster and at reduced cost for patients while sparing thousands of animals from needless suffering.

Kristi Soto is the director of marketing and communications for the Spokane Humane Society.

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