VA shifts its policy regarding dog research

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News has uncovered a shift in policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs when it comes to canine research.

For the first time since 8News broke the story of deadly dog experiments at McGuire, it appears the VA is taking a closer look it use of dogs in research. In addition, Secretary David Shulkin is admitting that he is not a supporter of the research.

The VA now says no new canine research will be approved without secondary and possibly a third review.

In an internal memo provided by the VA to 8News regarding the VA’s new canine research protocols provided, it states:

“To address recent public and Congressional concerns about VA canine research, VA is expanding the secondary review mechanism to all canine research performed in VA.”

Meaning, any canine research going forward must now get approval from the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer Doctor Michael Fallon.

Fallon sat down with 8News last summer defending the testing into cardiovascular disease. He told us sometimes scientifically there’s no other option.

“We don’t want to be having to use dogs in research but there is no alternative,” he said. “There are very specific research projects that require dogs.”

Yet, the VA has also confirmed to 8News under this new policy,  even if a canine research project gets the green light from Dr. Fallon, it will now also need review from the VA Secretary David Shulkin.

Shulkin recently stated publicly in an interview with another media outlet that he is ‘not a strong believer in the need for canine research,’ and he will be using ‘an extremely high threshold’ before approving any new dog research.

“This is an issue of taxpayers being forced to foot the bill for something they find objectable,” said Justin Goodman with the taxpayer watchdog group, White Coat Waste Project.

White Coat finds the research involving dogs implanted with pacemakers then run on treadmills until they collapse abusive. Goodman tells 8News White Coat is optimistic Secretary Shulkin will stick to his word and enact meaningful restrictions on the use of dog research. However, the group is cautious. The group also worries new policy might just be window dressing as Dr. Fallon has been the VAs biggest champion of the research, research white coat calls wasteful.

“The VA has not provided a single example from the 21st century of any discovery that has come from dogs at the Richmond VA,” Goodman said.

The new review process does not change anything for the current dog research underway and previously approved at McGuire.

8News have been able to confirm that no new canine research studies have been proposed at the VA since July of 2017.

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