Recently, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie did something rarely seen in Washington, D.C., these days. He told the truth despite pressure from special interest groups to do otherwise. Mr. Wilkie explained that, like many other Americans, he is a dog lover. However, he also supports health studies in a limited number of canines to develop new therapies aimed at helping American veterans injured on the battlefield.
Animal research has improved the health of humans and animals alike through the development of countless medications and therapies. And while most research occurs in rodents, an incredibly small percentage of these breakthroughs require dogs. While speaking at the National Press Club, Mr. Wilkie highlighted past major advancements involving canines, including the heart pacemaker and a treatment for cardiac arrhythmias. Nowadays, dogs are helping us battle various forms of cancer. In addition, new therapies developed in dogs with a form of muscular dystrophy are now being tested in human patients.
Activists have been misleading Americans about animal studies for decades, falsely claiming they are no longer necessary. However, in many cases, there are simply no alternatives. You can’t model complex biological systems if you do not fully understand them.
It may be easy for some — including the PG editorial board — to accept animal rights fiction as fact (Nov. 17 editorial, “Put Him on a Leash: Dog Testing by Government is Wrong”). Thankfully, Mr. Wilkie did not make this mistake. He stood up for good, ethical science that benefits both veterans and animals. For that, he should be applauded, not criticized.
The writer is the executive director of Americans for Medical Progress.