Answering Questions About #BeagleGate – FactCheck.org


Q: Did Dr. Anthony Fauci fund experiments on beagles?

A: Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which has provided grants for medical studies using the dogs as test subjects. But the NIAID denied funding one particular project in which sedated beagles had their heads placed in mesh cages so sand flies could bite them.

FULL QUESTION

What’s the real story on Fauci’s involvement in using beagle puppies for medical experiments?

FULL ANSWER

In the last week, we’ve received dozens of emails from readers asking about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s alleged cruelty to animals, specifically beagles.

The messages were prompted by a series of online reports by the White Coat Waste Project, the details of which have recently been shared on social media, as well as written about and discussed on television by news outlets.

The government watchdog group, which was founded in 2013 by former Republican strategist Anthony Bellotti, opposes federal funding of research relying on animal testing. 

The National Institutes of Health says “animals used in federally-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 research involving animals is evaluated by scientists in a peer-review system and a committee at each institution before the research begins, and then is monitored by that committee and the NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare for compliance with federal laws and policies.

If a project violates the federal requirements, the project can be suspended and the NIH can require corrections.

In a July 30 “exposé,” the White Coat Waste Project alleged that Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spent more than $424,000 on “beagle experiments” in which the dogs were “bitten to death by flies.”

That was followed by an Aug. 31 blog post that carried the headline “Fauci Funded $375K Beagle Torture Overseas, Too.”

Then, in an Oct. 5 report, the group added that “Fauci Wasted $1M+ to Poison Beagle Puppies, Cut Out Vocal Cords.”

Based on those reports, and the subsequent media coverage of what has been dubbed #BeagleGate, 24 House members, led by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, sent a bipartisan letter to Fauci and the NIAID, which is part of NIH, asking for more information about the agency’s funding of experiments using the dogs.

The lawmakers requested a response by Nov. 19.

For now, we’ll go over the claims the group has made, as well what the NIAID has said in response. The agency has admitted to funding some research using beagles, but it denied that it funded one project in Tunisia that went viral on social media because it involved sedated beagles whose heads were stuck in mesh cages filled with diseased sand flies.

What’s not clear is whether Fauci, who has headed the NIAID since 1984, personally approved the other projects that the NIAID has funded, as the White Coat Waste Project’s posts suggest.

Studies in Tunisia

In its August post, the White Coat Waste Project said its investigators had discovered photos and government records showing that the NIAID awarded over $375,000 in funding for a study in Tunisia “to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hundreds of infected sand flies.” However, both the NIAID and the journal that published a paper on the study have since said the NIH did not fund that research.

“That’s right: these taxpayer-funded white coats intentionally had the insects eat these beagles alive,” the post said, adding that beagles were also locked “in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies.”

The photos, which have been shared widely online, were pulled from a paper about a study that investigated whether the flies were more attracted to dogs with or without leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease found in the tropics, subtropics and southern Europe. The paper, published this past summer, originally said the authors received funding for the research from the Wellcome Trust foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

But NIAID said it did not fund the study in question.

“The images of beagles were drawn from a manuscript published in July 2021 in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The manuscript mistakenly cited support from NIAID, when in fact NIAID did not support this specific research shown in the images of the beagles being circulated,” the NIAID said in a statement a spokesperson emailed to us.

Indeed, on Oct. 26, the journal issued a correction, saying, “The US National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust did not provide any funding for this research and any such claim was made in error.”

However, the NIAID said it did fund a separate project in Tunisia that studied a vaccine to prevent leishmaniasis.

“In the NIAID-supported study, twelve dogs were immunized with the experimental vaccine at the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, and then let out in an enclosed open space during the day, during high sandfly season in an area of Tunisia considered to be hyper-endemic for canine leishmaniasis. The goal of the research was to determine if the experimental vaccine prevented the dogs from becoming infected in a natural setting,” the NIAID said in its statement.

The NIAID also acknowledged that another leishmaniasis study, which the White Coat Waste Project has written about, was conducted at NIAID laboratories in 2016.

The agency’s statement said, “dogs were the necessary animal model for the research, and the researchers ensured that the dogs experienced no discomfort.”

In the experiment, eight beagles were intentionally infected to study the transmissibility of leishmania infantum, which causes canine leishmaniasis. The dogs developed skin lesions and were later euthanized.

SRI International Study

In its October post, the White Coat Waste Project said documents it obtained via the Freedom of Information Act show that NIAID “ordered cruel and unnecessary drug toxicity tests on dogs and other animals” at a cost to taxpayers of $1.68 million.

“In the tests, 44 beagle puppies who were just 6-8 months old were repeatedly injected with or force-fed an experimental drug for weeks, and then killed and dissected,” the post said. “The documents also show that Fauci’s NIH division paid to have the puppies’ vocal cords cut out so they couldn’t bark in the lab while they were being abused.”

In its statement, the NIAID said it granted a contract for preclinical pharmacology and toxicology services in accordance with the development of a treatment against HIV infection.

“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,” the statement said.

The NIAID acknowledged that the beagles used in the study underwent a procedure, known as a cordectomy, to prevent them from barking.

“Vocal cordectomies, conducted humanely under anesthesia, may be used in research facilities where numerous dogs are present,” the statement said. “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.”

The FOIA-obtained documents indicate that all 44 dogs used for the study were scheduled to be euthanized so that researchers could examine their organs for toxic effects after receiving the experimental treatment.

SRI International, the nonprofit research institute that received the NIAID contract, did not respond to our request for comment.

University of Georgia Study

Back in late July, the White Coat Waste Project said another set of FOIA documents it obtained revealed that “Fauci just spent $424,000 to commission a study in which healthy beagles are given an experimental drug and then intentionally infested with flies that carry a disease-causing parasite that affects humans.”

“At the end of the ongoing experiment, the dogs will all be killed,” the blog post said.

That’s a reference to an NIAID-supported project at the University of Georgia. Researchers there are testing the efficacy of a potential vaccine against lymphatic filariasis, which is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that affects some 120 million people worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The NIAID told us the vaccine candidate potentially could be used to prevent the illness in humans, as well as filarial infections, such as heartworm, in dogs, who are natural hosts for the parasite and respond to infections similarly to humans.

“As such, they represent an appropriate model for testing this investigational vaccine prior to evaluation in humans,” the NIAID said.

In a statement emailed to FactCheck.org, a university spokesperson said that the NIAID determined that the study needed to be conducted using a dog model, and that “beagles are the standard dog model used in this type of research,” according to researchers at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

The FOIA-obtained documents, which were redacted in places to remove proprietary information, say the 28 beagles used in the study would be put to death before the research is completed in January 2022.

“Because this disease currently has no cure, unfortunately the animals that are part of this trial must be euthanized. We do not take lightly the decision to use such animals in some of our research,” the university said.

Beagles are often used in research involving dogs “due to their convenient size and docile nature,” according to the NIH’s Office of Research Integrity. More generally, the NIH says it uses animals in research, in part, because it allows scientists to “identify new ways to treat illnesses, extend life, and improve health and well-being.”

The American Diabetes Association notes that German research on dogs in the late 19th century eventually resulted in the discovery of insulin, for example.

What Did Fauci Know?

We asked the White Coat Waste Project if it had any documentation that Fauci himself signed off on funding for these projects. In a statement, the vice president of advocacy and public policy, Justin Goodman, said the group was still trying to get more information.

“There are still many open FOIA requests filed by WCW, so we are trying to find out all we can in terms of what Fauci knew about these grants,” Goodman said. “But, NIAID has already admitted to doing beagle experiments inside the federal lab run by Fauci, and as the director of the division of the NIH that funded all of these beagle experiments, the buck stops with him.”

Fauci has not publicly commented on the claims made by the White Coat Waste Project, and the statement the NIAID sent us did not address whether he authorized the funding in question.

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Sources

Nieves, Amanda. “#BeagleGate: 4 labs, 1 scandal.” White Coat Waste Project. 26 Oct 2021.

Nieves, Amanda. “WCW Exposé: Fauci Spent $424K on Beagle Experiments, Dogs Bitten to Death by Flies.” White Coat Waste Project. 30 Jul 2021.

Nieves, Amanda. “PHOTOS: Fauci Funded $375K Beagle Torture Overseas, Too.” White Coat Waste Project. 31 Aug 2021.

Nieves, Amanda. “WCW Investigation: Fauci Wasted $1M+ to Poison Beagle Puppies, Cut Out Vocal Cords.” White Coat Waste Project. 5 Oct 2021.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Statement emailed to FactCheck.org. 28 Oct 2021.

Greg, Trevor, University of Georgia spokesperson. Statement emailed to FactCheck.org. 28 Oct 2021.

Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project. Statement emailed to FactCheck.org. 28 Oct 2021.

Chelbi, Ifhem, et al. “Enhanced attraction of sand fly vectors of Leishmania infantum to dogs infected with zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis.” PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 27 Jul 2021.

Aslan, Hamide. “New Insights Into the Transmissibility of Leishmania infantum From Dogs to Sand Flies: Experimental Vector-Transmission Reveals Persistent Parasite Depots at Bite Sites.” The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 14 Jan 2016.

Rep. Nancy Mace. Letter sent to Dr. Anthony Fauci. 21 Oct 2021.

National Institutes of Health. “Why are animals used in NIH research?” Grants.nih.gov. Accessed 2 Nov 2021.

American Diabetes Association. “The History of a Wonderful Thing We Call Insulin.” Diabetes.org. 1 Jul 2019.





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