EXCLUSIVE: VA Oversight Office Finds Evidence Of Abuse And Oversight Failures In Dog Experimentation Program

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Office of Research Oversight (ORO) at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has found evidence of abuse and oversight failures pertaining to dog experiments during an investigation of the Richmond, Va., VA.

According to a leaked report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, ORO conducted an investigation from April 18-21 into the Hunter Holmes McGuire medical center in response to a complaint in late March by the taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project.

What’s notable about this report is that it found new evidence that animal welfare and oversight failures were still occurring as of April 2017 when ORO conducted an investigation. White Coat Waste Project’s initial complaint in March, which sparked the investigation, detailed concerns stemming back to December 2015-2016. The new problems were only discovered upon the ORO’s visit to the Richmond VA in April.

For starters, the ORO report notes that there was a lack of documentation to show that animals were properly evaluated and “received supporting care.”

“Some animal medical records provided insufficient documentation to demonstrate if dogs with health problems were consistently evaluated by a veterinarian, consistently received appropriate care, or were appropriately observed for signs of health problems,” the report notes.

ORO investigators also found that there was a “non-adherence to provisions of the written Program of Veterinary Care.”

Moreover, employees involved in the dog experiments did not keep proper records relating to “animal usage and disposition.”

For example, the report states that the records that exist “did not document or inconsistently documented that dogs received appropriate supportive care, including preoperative medications, intraoperative monitoring/support, and observations for signs of health problems.”

Investigators found that in some instances, there were deviations from study procedures without any approval from the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

Additionally, the IACUC failed to ensure that the research protocols they approved contained “complete descriptions of research activities.” These procedures simply did not have sufficient details to “ensure adequate review.”

“The IACUC did not consistently ensure that complete justifications were provided for unrelieved pain and distress,” the report noted.

Research facilities use IACUC’s to make sure that their research keeps in alignment with federal policies on lab animals.

An examination of records also indicated that the number of dogs experimented on was underreported to the Department of Agriculture. Records for fiscal years 2016, 2015 and 2014 were inaccurate.

Notably, however, ORO was unable to “conclusively” find out if either negligence or incompetence were at play in surgical complications that resulted in two dogs dead and another one nearly dead, due to poor post-procedural care.

ORO privately briefed the House and Senate Committees on Veteran Affairs staff on the contents of the report on June 19.

TheDCNF has learned that the VA is set to brief other members of Congress on the ORO report Tuesday afternoon.

Revelations of animal suffering and surgeries gone horribly wrong have so far led the West Los Angeles VA medical center to drop experiments on narcoleptic dogs.

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