The Department of Veterans Affairs promotes aggressive and ultimately deadly experiments in dogs as part of VA's medical research program, according to documents received by USA Today.
The controversial processes has already provoked rage and opposition from some veteran lawyers and led to severe constraints from Congress. VA says the studies could produce discoveries that can help veterans suffering from spinal cord or respiratory problems.
In Milwaukee, experiments require researchers to remove parts of the brains of dogs to control neurons controlling breathing before animals are killed by lethal injection, show research records.
In Cleveland, the tests include the use of dogs' vertebral cord electrodes to measure reflex cough before and after cords breakage.
In Richmond, Virginia, experiments include the implantation of pacemakers in dogs, then the induction of abnormal heart rhythms and the operation of animals in the corridors to test cardiac function before euthanasia by injecting or draining their blood.
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Government spokesman Curt Cashour said former secretary David Shulkin has approved the continuation of the trials on March 28, the day he was fired by President Donald Trump.
But Shulkin today told the US that he was not asked "to ask for a review for approval" of the ongoing dog experiments. He said that he entrusted this responsibility to the research experts of the organization.
Whether he – or his successor – was signed on them is important because a Trump law signed on March 23 requires that dog experiments be "directly approved" by the VA secretary to receive funding from the delegation. It does not specify a written permit. Mr. Cashour said Shulkin gave the oral verbal speech at an early afternoon meeting on March 28 with five other senior VA executives.
The revelations that the trials are going to continue within the new secretary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Robert Wilkie is sure to provoke a new debate. The files reviewed by USA Today show that there are nine active experiments on four VA installations, and are more likely in the future.
A survey that detects failures and deaths in surgical procedures in dogs has led to more checks from the head of the organization and Congress, but this does not stop testing that includes dog pain.
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VA officials claim that research could lead to discoveries that can help veterans with heart disease or breathing problems that may accompany paralysis. Mr Cashour said that researchers use dogs "only when no other species will produce meaningful results and work will be morally correct". VA says that more than 99% of delegation studies include mice or mice.
When asked to report the latest discoveries identified in the VA dog survey, Cashour pointed to the invention of an implantable cardiac pacemaker and the procedures that led to the first successful liver transplant. These experiments date back to the 1960s, according to the VA website.
Legislators pushing to stop penetrating dog experiments at VA say they are disappointed that the new leadership of the organization is progressing with testing.
"Because there is this commitment to this, I do not know why it does not work," said Dina Titus, D-Nev., Co-founder of a bill with Rep Dave Brat, R-Va. This would stop the experiments. "They are not financially healthy, they could look at new technologies, and moral people simply do not support testing in puppies."
Although they were happy, Trump signed the law in March, demanding the approval of BE's secretary to fund the experiments, Titus, Bracht and Brian Mast, R-Fla., Said they would continue to push for to stop them completely.
"We did not do what we wanted as a whole," said Mast, a veteran who lost his two legs in Afghanistan and is now a member of the House VA Committee.
Vigorous surgical procedures
The issue began to attract lawmakers in the spring of 2017 when a White Coat Waste Project released papers showing that VA researchers at Richmond had annoyed surgeries in dogs.
The White Coat Waste Project, a team opposed to funding dog medical tax audiences, says that this photo was taken by a complainant disturbed by the treatment of dogs undergoing medical experiments at the VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va. (Photo courtesy of a white waste project)
Within a few months, the House unanimously passed legislation to neutralize the experiments, but the measure stopped in the Senate, as BA officials launched a public campaign to stop it.
This campaign included support from veterans, such as the American Legion and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. It also included one op-ed by Shulkin, now-former VA secretary, published in the US TODAY underlining the need for dog testing.
Before being dismissed, Shulkin said his views on the matter had changed and put a moratorium on new experiments starting without his permission. In March, he ordered a review of all ongoing studies by VA research executives.
Cashour, a spokesman for VA, said that dog reviews are "the only viable models" for nine experiments.
In a letter to lawmakers received from USA Today, VA said they included the Spinal cord exam in Cleveland, Brawls in Milwaukee, five heart experiments in Richmond and another heart study in St. Louis.
Dozens of dogs sprang from a bankruptcy workshop. (Photo: Molly Wald, Society of Animal Friends)
Four studies have been discontinued or discontinued after the review. The researchers concluded that mice could be used instead of dogs for a Los Angeles Narcissis experiment, and that pigs could be used for a Milwaukee study on blood flow. Another brain experiment in Milwaukee was put on hold for further review and a second experiment in Los Angeles was closed.
When asked what the new secretary's views on dog experiments, Cashour pointed out that Shulkin chose from last summer and said VA's position was unchanged within Wilkie.
"This is important to ensure that the debate on this issue is based on a careful analysis that takes into account the full context of the issue," Cashour said.
Call to suspend experiments
The White Coat Waste Project, the team that launched the campaign to end the experiments, says it should be suspended until the study is completed.
"I believe it questions the integrity of VA's intentions if it is to continue funding and conducting dog experiments that has just paid an organization over a million dollars to control," said Justin Goodman, defense vice president and public policy for the organization.
Some groups of veterans who backed the experiments last year did not return messages asking for confirmation of their continued support, such as the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Paul Rieckhoff, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said his team continues to support the experiments if they are on the right track.
"We do not support all dog research per se, but when done morally, it can lead to medical discoveries," he said.
But America's paralyzed veterans, who initially expressed their support for ongoing dog testing, told the US that their position has evolved since then.
"We are no longer opposed to efforts to stop the lethal VA medical research in dogs," said spokesman Liz Deakin.
Former executive director of the group, a veteran of the sea paralyzed in a car accident as he prepared to settle in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, also withdrew his support.
Sherman Gillums Jr., who is currently chief strategic veteran of the American Veterans, said after the science and speech review to VA experts and elsewhere, he concluded that dog experiments have not been translated into human medical advances for decades .
"It's time to see better ways and spend money smarter than we did in the past – especially if it's going to cause pain to the same animals that most veterans need as a dog service," he said in the US TODAY. "To imagine cages being tested without a real result that gives anyone hope, it just seems cruel."
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