FDA Modernization Saves Dogs Like Bernie

To understand why Animal Wellness Action is so invested in the passage of FDA Modernization 2.0, one need look no further than Sheldon and Bernie.

Sheldon is a robust 85-year-old Atlanta resident who decided to change the life of a 6-month-old beagle and ended up changing his own in the process, too. Bernie is the puppy’s name, and when he was rescued from an infamous breeding facility for medical-testing labs, Envigo, Sheldon was ready to give the boisterous dog a home.

Thousands of people across the nation like Sheldon have stepped up to do their part and to help rescue the scores of Envigo beagles, who faced pain and certain death at the lab where they were used for medical experiments to satisfy an archaic, Depression-era regulation that new pharmaceuticals be applied to animals before reaching human clinical trials.

While animal-lovers rejoice that Envigo was shut down after a DOJ investigation, the sad truth is that without getting rid of this antiquated rule—and enabling drug companies to employ modern, safer and more reliable testing methods, such as organs-on-a-chip—the cruelty will continue for countless other beagles, primates and other animals. FDA Modernization is their ticket to relief—and to better, more affordable drugs that will be brought to market faster for humans.

FDA Modernization 2.0 has passed the Senate. Now, we must convince the House to pass the same measure that members have passed once before already under a different name. President Biden’s pen is at the ready to end this insanity, but people should—and must—act now by calling their representative at 202-224-3121. They can also follow this link to have a letter generated on their behalf.

Here is Sheldon and Bernie’s story. He spoke with us as he took Bernie for a walk on a nearby trail. In between various stops to meet big dogs (Bernie is partial to large ones) and convincing Bernie not to eat a plastic bag, Sheldon described his new life with a very special dog.

AWA: When did you adopt Bernie?

Shel: It was mid-June. I had always wanted a beagle and when I read an advertisement that the Atlanta Humane Society was taking in 27 of the rescued beagles, I called immediately. You know about the 4,000, right? All of these dogs would have been sent off to medical labs. Bernie would have died in an experiment.

AWA: Do you remember the first time you saw Bernie?

Shel: I was sitting in a chair in a room at the humane society, and they carried him in and gave him to me. They put him on my lap. I could hear his tail hitting the back of the chair, “bang, bang bang,” so I knew he liked me, and I certainly liked him. Instead of taking him right home, I took him to a big dog run outside my condo and he immediately ran around with three big dogs. He jumped right in and played chase. I can tell you that was the first time he must have been free to be a dog ,and I was seriously so happy for him, it brought tears to my eyes.

AWA: What is Bernie like?

Shel: He’s cute and cuddly with a big personality and a mind of his own, and I like that. He was only two months old when I got him. He had those numbers and letters tattooed inside his ear from the place he came from, I guess to identify him. The humane society sent us home with pee pads. I put them down on tile in my bathroom, and you know what he did? He chewed them up into little pieces and dragged them around. He still likes to eat drywall and chew on baseboards. It’s OK, he will grow out of it. He’s a character. I’m a retired architect, and my condo is well designed and decorated, but today my expensive vases are put up high, and my living room is full of chew toys and pull toys, many from my neighbor. Everyone in my building knows and loves Bernie because he is so friendly.

AWA: What is life like with Bernie?

Shel: Busy. I have chimes hanging on my doorknob, and Bernie will put his nose or a paw on them to say he wants my attention. I put my shoes on, and we take a walk early, like 4 a.m., before the sun is up. We go to play with dogs, then we come back and I have my morning coffee, while Bernie gets on the couch on his gray blanket and takes a nap before he eats breakfast, usually. It’s the same blanket that the humane society gave him, along with a pink squeaky toy. Those were the first things Bernie ever had of his own. They are still very dear to him.

AWA: What would you like people to know about Bernie and what he means to you?

Shel: I was reaching under a table to pull out his ball, and I sliced my wrist good on a sharp edge. It bled and Bernie started zooming around. I tried to tell him to relax and that I was OK, but he jumped on the couch and then came over and started licking my hand. He was so worried. He is just a special little guy. When I go to grill outside or something, I put a Ring camera on his crate and I talk to him so he won’t bark and get upset I am gone. It’s OK, because I know that if he had stayed at the lab, they would have cut his vocal chords so he couldn’t make a sound. It’s awful to think about that. He would have had no life at all. I hug him. We hug every day.

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