Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
The Department of Health and Human Services gave $10,000 to the University of California, Davis for research on the amino acid levels in dog urine on March 2, just days after the first coronavirus death on U.S. soil.
The description of the award says the money will go to “control dog urine samples and measuring the levels of amino acids in dog urine samples. The contractor shall test 80 urine samples and provide 4 hours of expert consultations….”
The White Coat Waste Project, a group that advocates against government spending for research involving animals, said the spending was just another example of government waste.
“Nothing better demonstrates FDA’s badly broken bureaucracy than the fact that just days after the first American on U.S. soil died from COVID-19, it wasted $10,000 on dog urine experiments instead of, say, buying 17,000 respirator masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, or just about anything else really,” Anthony Bellotti, the president and founder of the White Coat Waste Project, said, referencing the Food and Drug Administration, which falls under HHS.
The White Coat Waste Project also urged the government against including similar spending in the coronavirus stimulus bill before it passed, citing spending for research that involved giving cocaine to monkeys and putting fish on treadmills that made it into the 2009 stimulus package.
UC Davis has one of the most prestigious veterinary schools in the U.S., one of the features of which is a robust research program. The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has conducted work on amino acid levels in dog urine before. Colleges and universities around the country regularly receive grants from the federal government to conduct research, often in amounts far exceeding the $10,000 provided to UC Davis for this particular project.
For one example out of thousands, HHS awarded the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center $194,397 on March 12 for research on eating disorders.
But the timing and source of the dog urine research grant — HHS, one of the most important U.S. government agencies responding to the coronavirus — underscore that although the U.S. government often must spend large amounts of money to address major problems, there is also a significant amount of government spending that goes to far less urgent priorities, according to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
“It’s appalling that in early March FDA bureaucrats apparently felt $10,000 of taxpayers’ money was better spent on an order of dog waste than approving vital COVID test methods or inspecting lifesaving N95 respirators so they can be distributed to the public,” Gaetz said of the expenditure. “I’ll continue to work to cut FDA waste and red tape in order to better serve the American people in times of crisis and calm.”
The spending happened ahead of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill which included several provisions observers said had questionable relevance to combating the coronavirus.
One item that received a lot of attention was $25 million allocated for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The package also authorized $11 billion for three international development organizations, which some groups had said was critical for tamping down the coronavirus pandemic internationally. However, others criticized the funds as unnecessary international spending when the U.S. was struggling to control the outbreak within its own borders.