Virginia Congressman introduces bill to limit dog testing at the VA

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Congressman Dave Brat is introducing a bill to limit testing on dogs at veterans hospitals.

This move comes after several 8News investigations exposing deadly dog experiments at Richmond’s McGuire V-A Medical Center.

The bill has been dubbed the PUPPERS ACT – Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures And Experiments on Respected Species. The legislation would prohibit the V-A from conducting medical research that causes significant pain or distress to dogs.

Our 8News investigations have uncovered at least 118 dogs implanted with pacemakers then forced to run on a treadmill until they collapse.

Most of the animals are then euthanized.

A recent federal inspection at the McGuire found extensive violations of animal welfare regulations and research protocols.

In a statement, Congressman Brat said:

“The revelations regarding the dog laboratory testing at McGuire VAMC are disturbing and the descriptions are almost on the scale of torture. We must have quality health care for our veterans and the best medical research, but I believe there are alternative and more humane methods that can lead to similar medical breakthroughs. It is clear from this investigation the conditions at the McGuire VAMC in Richmond are not meeting the highest standards and healthy puppies are suffering through induced heart attack studies as a result. Our bill sets clearly defined expectations for medical research and will prohibit research at taxpayer-funded VA facilities that causes significant pain or distress for puppies.”

The bill has bipartisan support. Representative and Democrat Dina Titus from Nevada has co-sponsored the legislation.

Justin Goodman, VP of Advocacy and Public Policy at White Coat Waste Project, sent the following statement to 8News:

“Taxpayers have said loud and clear that they don’t want to pay for the deadly and wasteful experiments on puppies we’ve uncovered at the VA and we applaud Reps. Brat and Titus for taking bold, bipartisan action to defund this abuse.”

Dr. Michael Fallon, Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, Department of Veterans Affairs, also responded to the introduced legislation:

“VA’s animal research program has saved lives in the past and will save lives in the future. It’s important for people to recognize that canine research is essential to developing crucial medical advancements to help Veterans and non-Veterans alike. VA’s research and innovations have resulted in products that are both life-changing and lifesaving, such as development of the cardiac pacemaker, the first liver transplant, the nicotine patch, the discovery of insulin, and most recently the first FDA approved artificial pancreas.

“It is important to note that almost 100 percent of the animals involved in VA research are mice or rats. Studies involving larger animals such as canines are rare exceptions; canines accounted for fewer than 0.05 percent of animals used in VA research in 2016.  Those protocols that do involve larger animals are undertaken only when studies of rodents cannot provide the information that is needed—for example, studies of medical devices that are sized for humans, studies of disorders that do not occur in rodents, or studies when the physiology of the dog is much more similar to human physiology (such as in heart studies).

“At VA, we have a duty to do everything in our power to develop new treatments to help restore some of what Veterans have lost on the battlefield. One of the most effective ways for VA to discover new treatments for diseases that affect Veterans and non-Veterans alike is the continuation of responsible animal research. VA’s animal research program sets the standard for accountability and transparency both inside and outside the government. We take seriously any reports of not adhering to our strict standards of responsible research, and we immediately review and correct processes when any issues arise. Risk is inherent in cutting-edge research programs of this type, but we welcome scrutiny of our program.”

You can read the bill in full here.

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

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