The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) animal experimentation chief claimed in a recent interview that no puppies were experimented on at the Richmond VA, but documents provided by the VA to Congress show the exact opposite.
“We are not using any puppies in the research at Richmond,” animal experimentation chief Dr. Michael Fallon claimed recently in an interview with 8News, responding to reports that puppies are being used in experiments.
“I keep seeing these news reports of puppies,” Fallon continued. “That’s not true.”
But according to information provided by the VA to Congress in 2016, the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA medical center in Richmond, Va., experimented on dozens of puppies from early 2015 to late 2016.
For one procedure involving cardiac ablation, a process that entails scarring of heart tissue, the Richmond VA purchased 19 puppies between the ages of six and eight months from 2015 to 2016.
For another animal experimentation protocol, VA physicians induced extra, abnormal heartbeats in the puppies, so that researchers could understand how to avoid or reverse the problem. The VA purchased eight puppies aged seven to 12 months and two puppies aged 10 to 12 months for the project.
A similar experiment regarding premature ventricular contractions involved one puppy aged 10 months, one puppy aged seven months, three puppies at six months and four at five months. An additional two puppies aged six months in that experiment were merely housed and observed.
Numerous other experiments also involved the use of puppies, particularly one on atrial fibrillation, a form of cardiac arrhythmia. In this experiment, researchers injected calcium chloride into the cardiac nerves of four puppies aged six months to see if doing so would reduce irregular heartbeats.
Another document reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation indicates that the Zablocki VA medical center in Milwaukee, Wis., also received nine beagle puppies between six to eight months old, indicating that puppy experimentation is not restricted to the Richmond VA.
When asked how to reconcile Fallon’s public statements that no puppies were experimented on with the actual data, a VA spokesman told TheDCNF that “What Dr. Fallon said is true in the vast majority of cases.”
“In rare circumstances, VA has worked with canines less than a year old, but even then the canines were adult size,” the spokesman added.
“While there are ethical concerns associated with conducting animal research, they are far outweighed by the ethical concerns associated with not doing animal research,” he continued. “The broad consensus of medical and scientific experts in the United States and around the world is that animal research is necessary. That’s why VA will continue conducting animal research like someone’s life depends on it – because it does.”
Public outcry over the last several months in response to reports of dog experimentation at the VA has prompted action from Congress. Republican Rep. Dave Brat and Democratic Rep. Dina Titus introduced a bill in early July called the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act (PUPPERS Act) to prevent medical experiments on dogs that cause pain or distress.
But the bill is not without opposition. Sherman Gillums Jr., who works as executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, wrote Tuesday in an op-ed for The Hill that dog research provides hope to veterans suffering from serious spinal cord injuries, among other debilitating conditions.
“The VA has a responsibility to consistently find new and better ways of treat [sic] America’s heroes,” Gillums wrote. “Animal research helps the department do that. The program has helped save and improve countless lives, and it will continue to do so—unless ideology, and in some cases extremism on the issue of animal rights, succeed in forcing the public’s attention away from VA waiting rooms, inpatient wards, and rehabilitation gyms across the country.”
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