The United States government loves pets; from the Department of Agriculture’s kitten slaughterhouse to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs often fatal experimentation programs on dogs
USA Today reports that experiments include removing sections of dogs’ brains to test neurons that control breathing, using electrodes on dogs’ spinal cords to measure cough reflexes before and after severing the cords and implanting pacemakers in dogs, then inducing abnormal heart rhythms and running the animals on treadmills to test cardiac function before draining their blood.
“I love canines,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie who rejected calls to end the VA’s animal research. “But we have an opportunity to change the lives of men and women who have been terribly hurt. And until somebody tells me that that research does not help in that outcome, then I’ll continue.”
Most of the successes cited by the VA to justify this program are over a half-century old.
“Having sustained catastrophic injuries on the battlefield, which included the loss of both my legs, I am acutely aware of the vital role dogs play in helping troops recover from war’s physical and psychological tolls,” said Army veteran and Congressman Brian Mast (R-Florida). “The VA has not executed what we wanted as intent, which is to bring this to an end in its entirety, so we will keep up the pressure.”
These experiments have ignited outrage in the past, and Congress has threatened to defund them altogether, but the VA has pressed stalwartly onward. Oversight on the program has tightened considerably over the last year, before which failed experiments were producing alarming numbers of fatalities.
“We’re talking about tests like taking six-month-old puppies – putting them on treadmills – forcing them to run. Exhausted dogs, inducing heart attacks, sloppy and botched surgeries, restraint devices, drilling holes in their skulls, destroying their brains and charging taxpayers for it,” said White Coat Waste Project founder Anthony Bellotti.
Earlier this year, Todd Woessner, an Iraqi War veteran working in the maintenance department at the VA’s hospital in Richmond, Virginia, went public with things he saw in the VA’s animal experimentation laboratories.
“We saw a bowl sitting on a counter with a red like substance in it. We walked over and looked at it and there was a handwritten note beside it, and it spoke about where it came from, but it was a dog’s heart,” he said. “They look you in the eye and you can tell they’re fearful. It’s almost like they’re looking at you like wondering ‘are you here to help or hurt?'”
Wilkie said that 92 dogs are presently used in VA labs.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.