RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — We’ve known for months that federal tax dollars have been funding the deadly dog experiments at McGuire VA Medical Center. Now, 8News has learned that Virginia has funded those canine experiments, and it has some lawmakers calling for an end to the contributions.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the Commonwealth of Virginia contributed to the funding for the McGuire Medical Center’s dog experiments.
The information had been originally redacted but was recently disclosed after watchdog group White Coat Project sued to have the information disclosed.
“We cannot do this, we just can’t,” Virginia State Senator Bill Stanley said.
Sen. Stanley said he was appalled by the experiments, which have involved at least 39 dogs having pacemakers surgically implanted as part of a heart disease study. All of the dogs involved are eventually euthanized.
“I was truly shocked when I learned state funds, state taxpayer money is going to the cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs all in the name of science,” Stanley said.
8News dug further and confirmed that lawmakers allocate money from Virginia’s General Fund each year to the Center for Innovative Technology.
CIT then decides what research projects to fund.
In 2016, CIT awarded McGuire and Dr. Alex Tan nearly $100,000 for dog research. Dr. Tan is the same doctor that a review committee called “reckless” and responsible for several botched surgeries resulting in dog’s deaths.
We shared what we found with lawmakers.
Stanley said he had no idea that this block grant was being used to conduct deadly tests on dogs.
“We can find better ways in 2017 to find the information that they need to make the lives of our veterans and other people better,” Sen. Stanley said.
The VA argues that dogs are only used in studies when rodents cannot provide the information needed. Other supporters say canine research has and can lead to future medical breakthroughs.
8News spoke with Sherman Gillums, Jr., the Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. He said the sacrifices involved in animal research are worth it.
“The chance we are taking though, by stopping animal research is you will in effect impact our ability to find new treatments for not just human beings, but animals,” Gillums said.
Still, Sen. Stanley and Sen. Glen Sturtevant have fired off a letter to the governor expressing “opposition to the commonwealth’s role in the funding.” They describe it as “abusive and wasteful.”
They demand to know how much total taxpayer money has been provided for the research, and what action the Commonwealth has taken to address violations at McGuire, including those botched surgeries.
Sen. Stanley tells 8News he has already drafted legislation that would ban the use of Virginia taxpayer money for any research projects that harm dogs.