RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — McGuire VA whistleblowers didn’t hold back today describing dogs in distress and in pain.

McGuire’s Union President Jennifer Marshall and McGuire employee Todd Woessner met with Representative Dave Brat to discuss concerns with the dog research currently underway at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

“It is a huge disservice to the veterans,” Marshall told Brat.

Woessner shared photos with the Congressman and described the dogs as cut, probed and in pain.

“They sit there and tremble. It’s disheartening.  It is very hard to see that,” said Woessner.”

Both Woessner and Marshall want the VA to get out of the business of canine research.

“Open up that for patient care,” Marshall said. “We have a huge influx of patients coming in and we’re hiring lots and lots of providers but they have no space to see the patients.”

They say they want the VA to get back to their mission of treating veterans.

“To get my last physical took me about nine months to get in the door to get an appointment,” Woessner said.

Brat chimed in, “there is no incentive here for him except doing the right thing.”

It was clear Representative Dave Brat was in agreement.

“There’s huge space and she has outlined all the resources that are going to all these experiments that cause pain and distress for dogs, instead of going to the veterans,'” stated Brat.

The VA’s Chief Veterinary Medical Officer Dr. Michael Fallon confirmed to 8News the current dog research at McGuire has been underway for three years.

Dr. Fallon told 8News, “Research deserves its space just like any other service.”

The current study at McGuire is looking at heart disease. Dogs undergo open heart surgery, are implanted with pacemakers and run on treadmills. Most of the dogs are euthanized in the end.

“These dogs are purposely bred for research and have never been pets,” Fallon said. “There are very specific research projects that require dogs.”

But Representative Brat says he’s heard from many who are outraged and don’t want their tax dollars used to kill dogs.

“I got people across the country writing me letters,” Brat explained.

His bipartisan amendment to defund the dog research recently passed the house.

“Lets get rid of the pain we are inflicting on these dogs. We can fix this access problem and the dog problem by putting this bill together.”

But while Congress is taking steps to cut money for dog research, McGuire is hiring an animal technician; we’re told to better monitor the dogs. The job just posted Monday.

“I understand they are still moving forward with the status quo but it looks like the voice of the people is going to speak fairly loudly,” says Brat.

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