Republican and Democratic members of Congress want the Department of Veterans Affairs to let veterans adopt dogs that have been used in research experiments at VA facilities.
In a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin, Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu and Dina Titus joined Republican Reps. Dave Brat, Daniel Donovan and Brian Mast in pushing for VA facilities to let veterans adopt dogs used in experiments, a practice that legislators noted was already occurring on an ad-hoc basis at the Los Angeles VA.
“In the course of our ongoing work on this issue, we were encouraged to learn that on an ad hoc basis the VA has adopted out healthy dogs no longer needed for research,” the lawmakers wrote. “You have indicated that this sometimes occurs at the Los Angeles VA, and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit White Coat Waste Project show that the Cleveland VA has also adopted out some dogs from its laboratories.”
“Since these dogs can go on to live long, healthy lives and because they have often already cost taxpayers thousands each to purchase and house, this is a fiscally and morally responsible thing to do. Veterans, in particular, could be ideal beneficiaries of such a program.”
Research seems to indicate that dogs have numerous therapeutic functions for conditions like depression, stress and anxiety, which is why advocates have recently argued that the VA should provide grants to organizations that train service dogs for veterans.
Legislators further asked Shulkin whether there exists a standardized policy for adopting out dogs and cats that have fulfilled their research function and what facilities have so far been involved in sending dogs to veterans’ homes.
These legislators also wanted the number of dogs that have been adopted out over the past five years.
The letter comes in response to news that a VA facility in Ohio killed dogs it claimed were actually sent home to veterans. Out of five dogs given to the Cleveland VA, internal documents indicate that three were killed, despite the fact that hospital administrators said that they were adopted out.
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