Complaints over dog experiments at McGuire VA prompt federal inspection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News has been able to confirm that the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Research Oversight spent four days in April inspecting dog experiments at McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond.

READ: FULL INSPECTION REPORT. 

Congressional staff within Congressman Dave Brat, Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner’s office are all among those who were briefed Tuesday on a report detailing the inspection and the findings.

The inspection was prompted by a complaint about those animal research projects involving dogs filed by the animal rights group White Coat Waste Project.

The VA’s Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, Michael Fallon, stands by the use of canines in medical experiments.

“There are many, many medical problems that can only be addressed with animal research and it is not true that computer models can replace animal research,” Fallon said.

8News has found the studies with the dogs includes surgeries to implant pacemakers, stress tests and induced heart attacks. Fallon says the review found only incident where a dog died due to a mistake. The other deaths, he said, were due to the nature of the experiments.

Meanwhile, the report found problems with record-keeping and under-reporting the number of dogs used in the experiments and deviations from the approved experiments.

Fallon says improvements will be made.

“The station is developing an action plan,” he said.

Congressman Dave Brat’s staff wouldn’t comment Tuesday at the briefing, but Rep. Brat recently told 8News he had concerns about this medical research using dogs.

“The reports I read about were almost on the scale of torture,” he said. “I think there are probably alternative paths that will lead to the same breakthroughs.”

Meanwhile, 8News has also been able to confirm part of these studies have been funded by the American Heart Association.

In a statement the American Heart Association says:

“In the fight against heart disease and stroke, leading killers in the US., the American Heart Association funds a wide variety of basic and biomedical research programs, which are carried out at universities and medical centers nationwide.  Virtually every major medical advance of the past century depended on animal research.

Researchers funded by the American Heart Association only work with animals when other methods of research are unable to mimic the complicated interactions among cells, tissues and organs that occur in humans and animals. We require the researcher to investigate alternative methods first. They must verify that the research cannot be done successfully without animals.

Animal and human lives are saved every day as a result of the medical knowledge and treatments developed through research with animals.

The humane and responsible care of animals in biomedical research is important to the American Heart Association. We have strict guidelines regulating when researchers may work with animals and how the animals are treated. Details are available below.

Our policy is that whenever there is a questions or concern about research the AHA funds, we contact the institution and the researcher to ensure all required protocol and policies are being followed.”

The American Heart Association says they will be reaching out to McGuire.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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