The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will tighten oversight of controversial medical experiments on dogs after an investigation found surgery failures and canine deaths in research projects at a VA facility in Virginia.
The announcement of a change in policy comes as Congress considers a bill to defund the experiments altogether.
Nationwide, invasive experiments at three VA facilities are slated to include roughly 300 dogs, and involve surgeries on their brains, spines and hearts by researchers seeking treatments for heart disease and other ailments, USA Today reported yesterday.
All the dogs will be killed when the research is complete.
Michael Fallon, the VA’s chief veterinary medical officer, said all future research projects involving dogs will have to be approved by the VA’s accrediting body.
The VA’s Office of Research Oversight found in May that researchers at the VA facility in Richmond failed to adequately document whether dogs had been treated properly, and that four dogs suffered complications in experimental surgeries.
Those findings are fueling an effort to halt VA dog experiments deemed painful for the dogs. The House passed legislation — known as the PUPPERS Act — in July that eliminated funding for such research, but the VA is hoping to persuade senators to reject the measure.
“If this legislation passes the Senate, it would stop potential VA canine research-related medical advancements that offer seriously disabled veterans the hope of a better future,” VA Secretary David Shulkin wrote in a USA Today op-ed this month.
Opponents of the dog research say much of that research hasn’t translated to humans and that the VA is relying on outdated models that don’t fully take into account scientific advances that may provide alternatives to dogs as research subjects.
“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…