Richmond SPCA makes plea for McGuire dogs

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond SPCA is making a plea for the dogs used in medical research at McGuire VA Hospital. The SPCA wants to spare the dogs death.

‘We know that these dogs have been through pain and suffering but we would like to give them some life of quality,” said Robin Starr, Chief Executive Officer of the Richmond SPCA.”

Starr says she has reached out to McGuire Medical Center several times in an effort to save dogs from their fatal fate at the end of the animal testing.

“We get a response that doesn’t say anything at all, that is really just vague and unspecific,” Starr said.

McGuire shared its response with 8News. In a three-line email, the VA hospital simply states it, “does not have any canines available for adoption.”

But Starr argues that leaves many questions about the ongoing research and the dogs going forward.

8News has confirmed from whistleblowers and the VA’s top veterinarian, Dr. Michael Fallon, that currently there are dogs being used in experiments at McGuire.

“We absolutely feel like any government that is taking taxpayer dollars has an obligation to be transparent,” Starr said.

From research documents, 8News can see the testing is part of a study into cardiovascular disease. The dogs undergo chest surgery, are implanted with pacemakers and then run on treadmills as part of stress tests. At the end of the experiments, all of the dogs are euthanized. But Starr says it doesn’t have to end that way.

But Starr says it doesn’t have to end that way.

“We have a lot of experience with doing something like this, and we are quite capable of rehabilitating these dogs,” Starr explained.

Each year, the Richmond SPCA cares for about 4,000 animals. Eighty percent receive significant veterinary care and rehab after a traumatizing experience. In addition, the SPCA has budgeted more than $660,000 this year to continue that work, including rehabilitating and adopting out the dogs at McGuire.

“I am confident that we would have many many offers to take them in and adopt them into loving homes,” Starr said.

Starr is not the only one asking to the adopt the dogs. In a letter, several Congress members, including Virginia Congressman Dave Brat, urge the VA Secretary to allow the dogs to be adopted. They argue it is “the fiscally and morally responsible thing to do.”

And at a protest in front of McGuire last month, an animal welfare group made a plea for the dogs.

“We have a list of people who already want to adopt these dogs,” says Phillip Ramirez founder of the Guardians of Animal Welfare.

McGuire tells 8News the Medical Center has relationships with specialized groups that are fit to care for the animals should they become adoptable. When 8News asked if McGuire had ever adopted any of the dogs out, we were told the research protocol in place has not allowed for it in the past.

The VA says canine research is critical to medical advancements for veterans and non-veterans alike.

Meanwhile, another protest in front of McGuire Medical Center is planned for Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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