RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond is under the spotlight after being accused of animal abuse.
8News has learned that the hospital has been conducting controversial medical experiments and testing on dogs.
Induced heart attacks, botched surgeries, and dog deaths are just of the notes from animal incident reports at McGuire.
White Coat Waste Project, an animal rights group, is sounding the alarm about the animal testing, testing that they call cruel and bad science.
Justin Goodman, Vice President of advocacy and public policy for White Coat Waste Project, said the dogs were healthy before the experiments and testing.
“These were otherwise healthy dogs that are being intentionally injured,” Goodman said.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the animal rights group obtained the incident reports from McGuire, with details on testing and surgical mishaps on dogs as young as 1-years-old.
“Dozens of dogs are being subjected to experiments in which and these are healthy dogs, beagles, mutts, sometimes puppies who have their chests cut open, devices implanted to intentionally give them an irregular heartbeat,” Goodman said.
A procedure that proved fatal for some dogs, resulting in a heart attack or as it states in one report, “sudden cardiac death.”
“They force heart attacks on them, force them to run on treadmills until they collapse,’ Goodman said.
According to a November 2016 report, there were botched surgeries, like when doctors mistakenly sliced into a dog’s lung, killing the dog.
An animal care and use committee reviewing the incident called it “reckless behavior.”
“Some of the experiments have involved sloppy, incompetent surgeries that have killed dogs,” Goodman said.
In a statement, the VA tells 8News the research conducted on dogs is to help veterans suffering from lung infections,diabetes and PTSD. The VA said the “programs comply with the USDA Animal Welfare Act,” and that every program is approved and monitored by a local animal care committee.
Providing the best care and services to the nation’s Veterans is paramount to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA’s research and innovations have resulted in products that are both life-changing and lifesaving. From the implantable cardiac pacemaker to the nicotine patch to electronic health records, the innovations that happen as a result of VA research have far-reaching and lasting impact that doesn’t just touch the lives of Veterans who serve our nation, but all Americans.
VA animal research is strictly controlled and monitored with accountability mechanisms in place that comply with the same regulations and standards that university programs, state, private, military or civilian organizations employ. As part of that commitment, VA takes seriously any reports of not adhering to standards and will immediately review and correct processes if and when those issues arise.
Still, the animal rights group has fired off a letter to the VA’s inspector general calling for an investigation and it recently got the attention of some members of Congress.
During an oversight committee hearing Congressman Sanford Bishop Jr. of Georgia asked the VA Inspector Michael Missal: “Regarding animal experimentation at the McGuire VA Medical Center, do you intend to conduct that investigation?”
In addition, 13 bipartisan members of Congress, including Virginia Congressman Don Beyer have signed a letter urging the government accountability office to conduct an audit of experiments on animals at the VA and other Federal labs.
8News has confirmed that the Government Accountability Office has accepted that request and will begin an audit in a few weeks.
Currently, there are no Federal databases to search these tests. White Coat Waste Projects said these tests are essentially being conducted in secret.
The group is working with Congress members on legislation called the FACT Act, in an effort bring some transparency to taxpayer funded animal testing.