CLEVELAND -- Experiments on dogs continue at the Cleveland VA Medical Center, with a shipment of dogs set to arrive Thursday for testing, according to a Cleveland VA spokesperson.
Fox 8 reported the controversial practice in November. Now, months later, debate over the divisive issue continues to grow.
"I can't believe they would take a dog over a human," said Vietnam Veteran Bill Overton about people critical of the testing. "I'm a dog lover but if that's going to save the life of one of the guys that put their life on the line for our county I'm all for it."
According to a Cleveland VA spokesperson the goal of the experiments is to help veterans with ALS, paralysis and stroke cough effectively in order to eliminate a potentially deadly build up of fluids.
Wednesday, congress introduced the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species (PUPPERS) Act. The bipartisan bill would prevent the act of performing painful, distressing and sometimes deadly experiments on dogs.
Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) released the following statement:
“While taking care of our veterans and their health is paramount as my duty as a Member of Congress, I implore the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to explore and embrace alternatives to dog testing in their research. It is also my hope that the Department does its humane duty and adopts out all animals suited for adoption post research.”
According to the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog advocacy organization, a multi-year order of dog shipments also entails additional dogs that will be used for testing in April. A VA spokesperson confirmed this timeline.
"It's 2019 and there has got to be a better way to conduct this type of research that doesn't involve experimentation on animals that causes significant pain and distress but that also helps our veterans the way our veterans deserve to be helped," said Sharon Harvey, the CEO of the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
A review of the practice is underway by the Department of Veteran Affairs' inspector general.
A VA spokesperson released the following statement:
"The active canine research study will continue until it is complete, which includes two additional shipments. This study is necessary to better treat life-threatening health conditions in our Veterans.
Recently, a study involving researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that depended on canine-research methods reported on devices that restored effective breathing and coughing to Veterans living with spinal cord injuries (SCI). The patients now can breathe without a positive pressure ventilation device, and cough effectively.
The portable devices now produce effective breathing and coughing function in three patients, greatly improving their independence and reducing the need for suction to clear their lungs. This advancement is particularly important since it serves as a breathing life-support system, and restores an effective cough, which offers protection from potentially lethal respiratory infections."
For veterans like Overton, who says while the issue can be an uncomfortable reality, there are no blurred lines about what is most important.
"Their [veterans] life was threatened everyday they came back wounded warriors, and I would take the soldiers over the dogs any day," said Overton.