The VA’s Controversial Experimenting on Dogs Will Continue Says VA Secretary

Congress has passed laws to stop this horrific practice. But the Veterans Affairs secretary, Robert Wilkie, says that the VA will continue to experiment on dogs, including severing their spinal cords.

On Friday the Washington Post reported that Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie will continue to reauthorize the controversial practice of experimenting on dogs.

Eight months ago Congress passed bipartisan legislation limiting this practice. But the experiments continue at three VA locations in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Richmond. The experiments are invasive and sometimes fatal for the dogs and they are most certainly cruel and unnecessary.

“Speaking at the National Press Club, Wilkie rejected calls to end research that he said led to the invention in the 1960s of the cardiac pacemaker and the discovery in the late 1990s of a treatment for deadly cardiac arrhythmias. These days, he said, some of the testing is focused on spinal cord injuries.

“I love canines,” Wilkie said. “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.””

In March Donald Trump signed a spending bill that included language restricting these experiments. And bipartisan legislation has been introduced ending this horrible practice altogether.

“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 Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), an Army veteran and co-sponsor of the legislation. “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.”

According to the restrictions passed by Congress, any experimenting on dogs must be “directly approved” by the VA secretary. But Secretary Wilkie now says that he will continue to authorize the experimentation which includes things like severing dogs’ spinal cords and testing their coughing reflex.

The former VA secretary, David Shulkin, said in 2017 that the experiments were necessary “because of the distinct physical and biological characteristics humans and dogs share that other species do not.” Shulkin now says that he is against testing on dogs. But an agency spokesperson said on Friday that Shulkin approved the continuation of the research the day he was fired last March.

Wilkie tried to justify the dog research by saying that 2,000 dogs are euthanized every day in this country.

“Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy for White Coat Waste, said it was “disconcerting that Secretary Wilkie was brought in to clean up the VA, and yet he is doubling down on a program that has continued to fail veterans, taxpayers and dogs.””


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