News & Politics

Sec. Shulkin Backtracks on Veteran Admin's Medical Experiments on Puppies

Martin Rickett/PA Wire URN:34844652

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin is backtracking on the agency’s macabre practice of (tax-payer funded) canine research.

The new position follows almost one year of intense public pushback opposing continued use of taxpayer dollars and VA resources to perform research. That research frequently benefits private industry, like foreign-based Medtronic, and civilians suffering from illnesses not impacting the general veteran population.

Now, the agency not only requires additional levels of review not previously required, but Shulkin himself states doubts as to the necessity for continued VA canine research.

So what’s going on at the VA? (Aside from neglecting America’s veterans…)

Nationwide, invasive experiments at three VA facilities are slated to include roughly 300 dogs, including 6-month-old Beagle puppies, and involve surgeries on their brains, spines and hearts by researchers seeking treatments for heart disease and other ailments. All the dogs will be killed when the research is complete.

Here are some details of the experiments you are paying for:

Milwaukee, VA- researchers are looking for ways to decrease pain without slowing breathing are using dogs to study neurons that control breathing rates.

In those experiments, researchers place the dogs under anesthesia and remove parts of their brains to cause a complete loss of consciousness and sensation, according to research protocol documents. They then perform tests on neurons in the dogs’ brain stems before killing the dogs by lethal injection. (Some of these dogs are puppies, aged 6-9 months old.)

Cleveland, VA- researchers are studying ways to restore cough functions after spinal cord injury. The experiments involve placing dogs under anesthesia and then using electrodes for high-frequency stimulation at various places on their spinal cords to induce coughing. Researchers perform the tests before and after severing the spinal cords to mimic injuries suffered by humans.

The research calls for 41 dogs, who are euthanized at the end without recovering consciousness. Researchers on the project say previous similar dog studies helped them develop methods of electronic stimulation that have improved the breathing of quadriplegics who depend on ventilators.

Richmond VA– researchers are seeking therapies for heart disease and its development. In a handful of studies, they are implanting pacemakers in dogs, running them on treadmills and performing various tests, including by injecting medications, inducing irregular heartbeats, creating heart attacks and blocking arteries with latex. After the research is done, the dogs are euthanized by injection or by draining their blood.

The latest move by Shulkin is a reversal from his previous position articulated in an op-ed titled “Disabled veterans need research on dogs to continue,” in which he argued that stopping these animal experiments would jeopardize “seriously disabled veterans the hope of a better future.”

But veterans groups aren’t buying this line.

American GI Forum, American Military Retirees Association, AMVETS, DisabledVeterans.org, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S., Military-Veterans Advocacy, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, The Retired Enlisted Association, United States Army Warrant Officers Association, Veterans for Common Sense, Veterans for Peace, VetsFirst and Wounded Paw Project have come out and supported efforts to end the VA’s canine testing program. Instead, these groups favor taxpayer dollars being redirected towards programs that will help veterans rather than a foreign corporation, currently the beneficiary of the VA canine testing program.

In fact, its not even clear these experiments yield any valuable medical results. Benjamin Krause, a lawyer, disabled veteran advocate and editor of disabledveterans.org, writes:

Despite my repeated requests to VA press secretary Curt Cashour, VA has yet to name a single veteran-focused medical advancement that has ever resulted from dog testing in nearly 100 years of VA research.

According to a memo provided to 8news, the VA is already changing its animal experimenting protocol. “To address recent public and Congressional concerns about VA canine research, VA is expanding the secondary review mechanism to all canine research performed in VA,” the memo reads.

Hopefully Secretary Shulkin will go even further and scrap this program entirely.

Learn more about efforts to defund taxpayer subsidized animal experiments by the VA at White Coat Waste.