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Taxpayer-Supported Animal Cruelty

We need to look at every government agency that either uses animals or is responsible for animal control to determine if low cost alternatives are available for research experiments or population control.
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FILE - In a November 28, 2010 file photo provided by The Humane Society of the United States, female breeding pigs are in crates at a Virginia factory farm owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods in Waverly, Va. Smithfield Foods says it plans to end the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant. The Smithfield, Va.-based company said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2011 that it will phase out the use of gestation crates at its facilities by 2017. (AP Photo/The Humane Society of the United States, File)
FILE - In a November 28, 2010 file photo provided by The Humane Society of the United States, female breeding pigs are in crates at a Virginia factory farm owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods in Waverly, Va. Smithfield Foods says it plans to end the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant. The Smithfield, Va.-based company said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2011 that it will phase out the use of gestation crates at its facilities by 2017. (AP Photo/The Humane Society of the United States, File)

To save money, the Obama administration has cancelled public tours of the White House. One can appreciate that the first family probably welcomes a respite from the millions of people traipsing through their home. But there are other ways for the administration to save money. At the top of the list is ending taxpayer-funded programs that harm animals.

The billions of dollars that our government spends on programs that harm or kill animals could be directed toward better health care, hiring more teachers, police and firemen, overhauling our failing public education system or upgrading our aging infrastructure.

Our leaders need to make some tough economic choices. Perhaps they can start with the National Park Service, who two weeks ago oversaw an operation to kill 20 deer in D.C.'s Rock Creek Park. There was a better option available that the National Park Service chose to ignore -- using a non-lethal immunocontraception vaccine to reduce and stabilize the deer population.

The Humane Society of the United States offered to pay half the cost of this five-year program, saving taxpayers $170,000. But the National Park Service chose to kill the deer even though it had already successfully implemented wildlife contraception programs with The HSUS on Fire Island, N.Y. and on Assateague Island, Md. Then, to add insult to injury, NPS announced that venison would be distributed to food banks and homeless shelters. Did Park Service employees really want to shoot the deer?

Or consider the role of USDA-Wildlife Services. Every year, millions of our taxpayer dollars are used to fund this agency that kills native predators at the request of ranchers and state wildlife management agencies. The methods employed are inhumane and include leghold traps, snares, cage traps, aerial gunning and indiscriminate poisons.

While damage to livestock by predators is a real concern, Wildlife Services also has the authority to kill animals that are simply a nuisance and could be dealt with in a more humane way. The wolf and coyote reduction programs are particularly horrific as often these defenseless animals are shot by sharpshooters in helicopters as they desperately try to escape.

We should also look into animal research and testing funded by the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. Today, billions of dollars are poured into government research programs that include testing on animals. Technological advances are replacing the use of animals with more cost efficient and effective methods and where we should be investing our resources, yet our government continues to support many studies that provide limited benefit to humans and cause pain and suffering for monkeys, kill rabbits, dogs, guinea pigs, mice, rats and many other animals.

Thankfully, the government did respond to public outrage over using chimpanzees in medical experimentation and is gradually releasing these poor animals to sanctuaries. This is less costly than having them live out their lives in laboratory cages.

We need to look at every government agency that either uses animals or is responsible for animal control to determine if low cost alternatives are available for research experiments or population control. I am certain we could readily identify various programs that could be cut or eliminated, freeing up money to address more pressing needs of the elderly, families and children.

Taxpayer-supported animal cruelty must end.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the location of Rock Creek Park. The park is located in Washington, D.C.