RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — While other VA hospitals seem to be phasing out canine research, McGuire VA Medical Center Richmond appears to be doubling down on the controversial experiments.
Despite public outcry, concern from veterans and pressure from Congress, 8News has learned McGuire is still purchasing hounds for the fatal research. 8News also learned a deadly dog experiment that was originally scheduled to end this week has been renewed for three more years.
“So, Richmond is the last active dog lab standing,” says Justin Goodman, the vice president of advocacy and public policy at the watchdog group White Coat Waste Project.
Since White Coat Waste Project launched a campaign to end the taxpayer funded research, the Los Angeles VA, the Milwaukee VA and the Cleveland VA have all halted their canine experiments.
“From the streets of Richmond to the halls of Congress there has been immense pressure on the VA to clean up the waste and abuse in these dog testing laboratories,” Goodman said.
The canine research at McGuire is part of an ongoing study into heart disease in humans. The experiments involve surgically implanting the animals with pacemakers and forcing them to undergo stress tests on treadmills before euthanizing them.
Supporters say the studies can lead to discoveries that may help veterans suffering from cardiovascular disease or breathing problems. When 8News asked McGuire about renewing the studies, we were told in an email, “VA will continue conducting canine research, as it is absolutely necessary to better treat life-threatening health conditions in our Veterans. “
There still maybe a gain for those who have fought against the canine research calling it cruel, outdated and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Since 8News first started exposing the dog testing at the Richmond VA, the number of experiments has been cut in half.
In addition, research documents recently shared with 8News show the canine experiments are no longer happening without some pain relief. In April, modifications were made to the experiments. Now it states they “will only perform procedures during anesthesia.”
“Over the last three years, the Ventricular Programmed Stimulation (VPS) procedure was always conducted with full anesthesia,” McGuire told 8News. “The data obtained from these studies were satisfactory, and so all future VPS procedures will be conducted under full anesthesia, making them a Category D procedure.”
Prior, the experiments without anesthesia were connected Category E procedures, meaning they carry the maximum pain.
“That’s not perfect,” Goodman told 8News, “there are still dogs being mutilated and killed but at least they’re being provided some semblance of relief.”
Something that could impact the research going forward, Congress recently voted to cut federal funding for dog experiments that cause pain or distress. It’s something President Donald Trump still has to sign off on.