U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Continues Experimentation On Dogs
According to a report in USA Today and based on documents they received, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will continue controversial experiments that will be both invasive and eventually kill the dog participants they are using for research.
Many veterans’ advocacy groups requested Congress to restrict and/or halt the procedures, while the Veterans Affairs (VA) office says that the experiments are key to discoveries that will help veterans who suffer from spinal cord or breathing issues.
The experiments are gruesome. Some call for researchers to take sections of a dog’s brain to test neurons that control its breathing right before it is killed by lethal injection. Others test dog’s spinal cords and use electrodes to monitor data before and after they sever the dogs’ cords. Others still require the dogs to have pacemakers implanted and then the dogs are forced to run on treadmills to induce abnormal heart rhythms before they kill them. They then kill them either with injection or blood draining.
VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the former secretary of the VA David Shulkin approved the experiments to continue in March. The day he approved the continuation, March 28, was the day he was fired by President Donald Trump, says Cashour.
But Shulkin said that he was never asked about, nor did he ever request a review for approval of the project, and that instead, the responsibility of that delegation was on the researchers themselves.
On March 23 of this year, President Trump signed a law that was designed to protect cruel experimentation on animals by requiring any dog experiments to be directly approved by the VA secretary if it was to get funding. Cashour says Shulkin gave the okay to continue the projects, while Shulkin claims that was not the case.
According to the documents, there are currently nine active experiments in four VA facilities in the country, and there will likely be more as there is no act in place to stop them.
VA officials say they only use dogs when no other species could give meaningful work, and the research is always ethically sound. Additionally, the VA says that 99% of their work involves rats or mice, not dogs.
Representative Dina Titus is from Nevada and the co-sponsor of a bill with Representative Dave Brat. The bill would put an end to the experiments, calling them not economically sound, nor moral as people do not generally support testing on puppies.
Titus and Brat both were pleased that President Trump signed the legislation in March that requires higher approval for funding, but together, with Representative Brian Mast, they want to end the experiments on dogs altogether. Representative Mast is a veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan and said that the research is just not as valuable as the animal’s lives.
Shulkin said that before he was fired, he changed his mind about the need for canine testing, deciding instead that no new experimentation should happen without his express review and permission and all current studies be evaluated to see whether they could do something else. Cashour says that the reviews found only dogs were viable for nine studies, and they needed to continue.
Robert Wilkie is the new secretary of the VA and Cashour says that under Wilkie, the VA still finds a need to use canine testing. A $1.3 million study was commissioned by the National Academy of Sciences to analyze the need for canines in research.
Sherman Gillums, Jr. is the chief strategy officer at American Veterans and said that dog experiments haven’t translated to medical advances for humans in years, based on science and expert opinion from the VA. He believes that there are better and smarter ways to test, and ones that don’t injure animals that may very likely serve better as service dogs to veterans.
If you’re interested in learning more about experimentation on dogs, you can visit the White Coat Waste Project, which often exposes the cruel experiments on animals and tries to prevent them.
More by Lori Ennis