CLEVELAND - Animal advocates say they are working to shed light on a controversial and often deadly form of dog experimentation and testing conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"There's a national advocacy group that got in touch with us and indicated that our local VA was conducting painful experiments on dogs; which involved planting electrodes in their spinal cords, severing their spinal cord, conducting research and then killing them," said Sharon Harvey, the President and CEO of the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
Kristen Parker, Chief of External Affairs for the Cleveland VA Medical Center said their research program has the support of veterans organizations and provides needed research for medical breakthroughs. Parker provided the following statement:
"VA’s canine research program has the support of major Veterans groups, including the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, because it creates the potential for life-changing medical breakthroughs for seriously disabled people. In Cleveland we are studying how to help people with spinal cord injuries and other neuromuscular diseases like ALS and stroke to cough effectively. These people are vulnerable to dying of respiratory infections that other people would avoid simply by coughing away the germs that cause them. This research has already saved many severely wounded Veterans with spinal cord injuries from a cruel death caused by their lungs filling with fluid despite all modern medical measures to save them.
VA only allows the use of dogs when other research methods cannot provide the critical information needed to improve the lives of Veterans, and dogs are only purchased from Class A USDA dealers that breed the dogs specifically for research. The research in Cleveland has been underway since 2014. It was reviewed extensively and received approval by the local ethics committee, the VA Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, the VA Chief Research and Development Officer, and the VA Secretary. "
Harvey encouraged those who want to block the practice to call their U.S. Representative and voice support for H.R. 3197, a bill introduced in congress in July 2017.
The bill would prohibit the Department of Veterans Affairs from performing research within the Veterans Health Administration, from experimenting on dogs, as part of any study, that causes significant pain or distress.
"We should do everything we can to help veterans recover from injuries that they've suffered serving this country," said Harvey. "I believe in that very deeply but I don't believe that painful experiments conducted on dogs is necessarily the only way to achieve that end."