RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After a two-year investigation into canine research at the McGuire VA Medical Center, 8News learned the hospital could be ending its deadly dog testing.
The VA has maintained that the research being done is a necessity as they look for ways to improve the quality of life for veterans.
The agency is investing in a study that will look at replacing the testing on dogs.
In a Department of Veterans Affairs powerpoint presentation shared with 8News, the VA says “it might be possible to transition from dogs to pigs,” in regards to dog tests in Richmond. The presentation also states the VA is committing more than $2 million to study the possibility of using pigs instead of dogs.
The development brings hope to protestors and the watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, who have been fighting to put an end to the taxpayer-funded experiments. “This is a really promising and pivotal development that would end the most painful form of dog testing and would also practically end all dog experimentation within the VA,” said Justin Goodman, the Vice President, Advocacy and Public Policy for White Coat Waste Project.
The dogs are surgically implanted with a pacemaker, placed on a treadmill and undergo stress tests, according to the VA’s presentation. At the end of the testing, all of the dogs are euthanized.
The idea of replacing dogs with pigs is about saving face from when VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in November he would allow the controversial canine experiments to continue.
“The previous management authorized it,” Wilkie said. “I will reauthorize it.”
The presentation is supportive of the canine experiments, claiming it led to life-saving research and helped millions of people in its 70-year history. It also revealed there has recently been a 66 percent reduction in VA dog testing.
Since March 2018, the agency-wide canine research has gone from 15 active dog experiments to just five at this time. There are currently four experiments underway at McGuire. White Coat Waste believes backlash from the public and Congress has led the VA to cut back on the experiments.
“I think finally the VA is being accountable to Congress and to taxpayer. Last Congress over a 100 members signed onto legislation to end the VA’s dog testing,” Goodman told 8News.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), a combat-wounded veteran and the PUPPERS Act’s lead Republican co-sponsor, shared also shared a statement with 8News about the VA’s experiments.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask to want the VA to do better for veterans and man’s best friend than harming and killing puppies in outdated research opposed by most taxpayers. We’ve made progress to significantly curb the VA dog testing, but there is more work to do, so I am definitely looking forward to learning more from the VA about its plan to explore alternatives to its last major dog testing program in Richmond.”
-Rep. Brian Mast
8News reached out to McGuire VA Medical Center for comment about the presentation and the study into replacing dogs with pigs in experiments. Those requests were ignored but 8News was given a rather conflicting response from the VA.
“VA will continue conducting canine research, as it is absolutely necessary to better treat life-threatening health conditions in our Veterans,” the statement said in part.
McGuire also says its canine research has led to medical breakthroughs.