EXCLUSIVE: Taxpayer Watchdog Group Sues Department Of Veterans Affairs For Hidden Info On Dog Experiments

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A taxpayer watchdog group is suing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for refusing to release records relating to dog experiments at the Hunter Holmes McGuire medical center in Richmond, Va.

The White Coat Waste Project filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Richmond VA for refusing to divulge the names of researchers involved in dog experiments, the funding sources for these projects and project titles on records released by the watchdog group via Freedom of Information Act Request on March 1.

According to the group, there’s no way to tell how many projects that Dr. Alex Tan, an experimenter reprimanded for botching numerous dog surgeries, is involved in — or even if those projects are still ongoing and who is providing the funds for the experiments. The Daily Caller News Foundation reported in late March that Tan is still active at the facility.

The lawsuit states that the VA’s redactions of this information are unjustified and constitute a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“We’re suing the Department of Veterans Affairs because taxpayers have a right to know who’s paying the bills, who’s cashing the checks and who’s responsible for abusing puppies in wasteful heart attack experiments at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center,” Julie Germany, executive director of White Coat Waste Project, said in a statement.

What the unredacted FOIA results do show so far is that as of January, the McGuire medical center had four ongoing dog experimentation projects, including ones that involve inducing heart attacks. Exactly 118 dogs are slated to be killed in projects, and the McGuire VA is the only dog laboratory set up to conduct maximum pain experiments. Some of the dogs are as young as six months old.

“We don’t typically discuss pending litigation, and won’t in this case,” a VA spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Generally, however, VA welcomes the Inspector General’s investigation into our animal research program, and we look forward to its completion. If problems are exposed, they will be fixed, and those responsible will be held accountable.”

“One of the most effective ways for VA to discover new treatments for diseases that affect Veterans and non-Veterans alike, is the continuation of animal research,” the spokesperson added. “VA’s animal research program contributes significantly to improving and saving the lives of Veterans and the long-term quality of health care for all Americans. VA animal research is strictly controlled and monitored with accountability mechanisms in place that comply with the same regulations and standards that university programs and state, private, and military organizations employ.”

The VA did not state whether the four animal experimentation projects are still ongoing.

Pressure from members of Congress in California has meanwhile prompted the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center to stop experiments on narcoleptic dogs. Had the experiments gone through, project heads would have administered various drugs on 18 dogs and then killed them to study the effects of the medication in terms of histamine production in the brain.

GOP Rep. Dave Brat from the Richmond-area released a statement Tuesday praising the Los Angeles VA for halting dog testing and said that if dog experiments at the Richmond VA are not producing results that help veterans, they should cease.

“The Richmond VA Medical Center is now one of three VA facilities in the country still conducting these experiments,” Brat said. “I believe we must provide the best possible medical care for our veterans. However, if these fatal experiments on healthy puppies are in fact taking place with poorly documented medical benefits for veterans, taxpayers should not have to foot the bill.”

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