8 Investigates

Conflicting stories about who approved canine research at the VA

(WRIC) -- Someone is lying about who approved the continued deadly dog experiments at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last week, 8News exposed McGuire VA Hospital in Richmond is still buying dogs for the studies despite federal and state legislation to stop it.

At the time, the VA told 8News that former VA Secretary David Shulkin approved the continued canine research.

However, 8News has been in contact with Shulkin and he has something different to say.

This is important because if Shulkin didn't okay it, the VA could be in violation of federal law.

In an email to 8News, Shulkin says on his last day with the VA,  March 28, he was given an update on a review he ordered of the canine research at the VA.

He writes, "In this update meeting, I did not authorize a formal approval of continued studies." He also writes to 8News, "I did not approve any new research protocols while I was Secretary."

Still, VA spokesperson Curt Cashour continues to claim Shulkin gave approval verbally March 28 for the continuation of nine studies.

Local animal activists who have stood in front of McGuire VA Hospital in Richmond protesting the deadly dog testing say Congress needs to question these conflicting reports.

Todd Woodson, Administrator of the RVA Animal Advocacy Alliance and district leader with the Humane Society says, "really an investigation is in order, a full investigation."

McGuire has told 8News the canines are critical to studying cardiovascular disease.

The research involves surgically implanting the dogs with pacemakers. All of the dogs are euthanized at the end of the experiments.

A federal law passed earlier this year requires the VA secretary to give direct approval for this taxpayer-funded research at the VA.

Shulkin told 8News in an email, "if there was approval by the Secretary there would have been a signature for approval. He added, “VA does not do things with verbal approvals in situations like this."

Yet, Cashour alleges written approval is not required under the law. Between the VA and Shulkin, taxpayers are getting two very different accounts.

"We need to find out who is authorizing this,” says Woodson.

Over the weekend, Shulkin tweeted he was opposed to new dog research:

Meanwhile, animal groups are planning another protest in front of McGuire Nov. 28.

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