Department Of Veterans Affairs Moves Forward On Controversial Research That Will Be Fatal To Dogs Being Tested

Among other things, researchers plan to implant pacemakers to stimulate the animals' cough reflexes, and then to sever the animals' spinal cords.

the VA plans to continue with fatal experiments on dogs
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Among other things, researchers plan to implant pacemakers to stimulate the animals' cough reflexes, and then to sever the animals' spinal cords.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to move forward with plans to conduct research on dogs – research that will result in the animals’ deaths – despite intense opposition, USA Today is reporting.

In VA research facilities in three cities – Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Richmond – scientists plan to conduct a series of tests that they hope will help veterans with spinal cord or breathing problems. The tests, however, are gruesome to describe (more on that in a few paragraphs), and will all result in the animals being euthanized once the testing is completed.

The Controversy

The experiments had been going on for months before the public became aware of them, according to a September 2017 USA Today report. After an internal report revealed that the animals were dying in the course of the research, the VA promised to “tighten oversight” at the facilities where the experiments were being conducted.

Specifically, the new regulations required VA veterinarians to get approval before conducting any research on animals.

That wasn’t good enough for Justin Goodman, vice president of White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group that opposes wasteful spending in government scientific research. He wanted the entire program shut down and for Congress to de-fund it.

“The VA is abusing its authority and fear-mongering to defend taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs that are cruel and unlikely to help veterans or anybody else.”

Then-VA Secretary David Shulkin, however, wrote that the research was necessary to help veterans.

“If this [research is stopped], it would stop potential VA canine research-related medical advancements that offer seriously disabled veterans the hope of a better future.”

However, after a year of wrangling, the research is back on, the VA announced this week.

The Research

So what, exactly, is involved in the research? (Warning: the next few paragraphs contain material that may be disturbing to some readers.)

In the Milwaukee facility, researchers place the dogs under anesthesia, then remove the portion of their brain that control breathing, for further testing. The dogs themselves are euthanized.

In Cleveland, electrodes are placed on the dogs’ spinal columns to measure reflexes before and after their spinal cords are severed. As in Milwaukee, the dogs are euthanized by lethal injection after the experiments.

And in Richmond, dogs are implanted with pacemakers that introduce abnormal heart rhythms on the animals while they’re made to run on a treadmill. Afterward, they’re euthanized.

USA Today notes that more experiments on dogs may be in the works at more VA facilities in the future.