Daily Mail: Veteran's Center drops approved proposal for 'taxpayer-funded deadly experiments on dogs' in face of public backlash after Congress members demand answers

June 8, 2017
In The News

The Greater LA Veteran's Center has revealed it is planning to drop an approved proposal for 'taxpayer-funded, fatal experiments on dogs' in after Congress members demanded answers. 

The letter from the lawmakers to the Department of Veterans Affairs raised concerns a proposal had been approved for an experiment which would see dogs fed antidepressants or methamphetamines, before being killed and dissected at the center, according to representatives - in what an animal rights group branded a 'cruel and wasteful' study.


According to the letter, Congress was not even aware of the secretive experiment proposal until a series of FOIA requests revealed the 'harmful' tests, and lawmakers have blasted the VA for their lack of transparency.

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System has since confirmed to DailyMail.com they currently have three narcoleptic dogs at the facility, and were planning to breed them and carry out the experiment after the proposal gained approval. 

But in the face of such strong public backlash, it appears the center is planning to drop the research which had not yet been carried out.

'The researcher has no current plans to breed further and it is expected the study will not be done,' a spokesman told us. 

They said that none of the studies carried out on animals had involved euthanasia in recent years. If this had gone ahead, it would have changed that.  

Nevada Rep. Dina Titus had told the DailyMail.com that Congress needed to 'take action' after learning the 'increasingly disturbing details' of the VA's planned dog experiments. 

'Taxpayers should not be funding the abuse or mistreatment of animals.'

Rep Titus was one of eight representatives to have written to the Office of Inspector General for Veterans Affairs, Michael J. Missal, demanding answers.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), another one of the signatories, said he was 'deeply troubled' to learn about the experiment. 

'We were not aware of it, and frankly no one was aware of it,' Lieu told the LA Times. 'No federal agency should be doing that. If this is true, these dogs are being abused.'

Their letter highlights concerns about 'apparent misleading statements of the Department of Veteran Affairs about harmful dog experiments taking place at a VA Greater Los Angles Healthcare system laboratory and a related lack of transparency and accountability.' 

It highlighted a statement from the VA about ongoing research projects with dogs that stated they were; 'Gaining insights into narcolepsy... through observations studies of a unique colony of naturally narcoleptic dogs.'

Representatives argued the label 'observational' was 'inaccurate and misleads Congress and taxpayers to believe that the studies are harmless.'  

'This is a betrayal of dogs, a betrayal of veterans and a betrayal of tax payers,' said Justin Goodman, Vice President, of Advocacy and Public Policy of the White Coat Waste Project,  an anti-animal-testing charity which discovered the animal testing at the VA.

He also condemned the VA's lack of transparency to both tax payers and Congress, about what he branded 'irrelevant and cruel research.' 

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System told the DailyMail.com that all their research 'is strictly controlled and monitored' and has the same 'accountability mechanisms in place' as university programs and state, private, and military organizations employ.

'VA and VAGLAHS realize this is a very sensitive issue, but we also know that it would be unethical to expose humans to the risks associated with test treatments that have not been thoroughly studied first in animals, or to refuse to do the research that is necessary to reduce human suffering. 

'We keep detailed records of all of our research projects, and follow strict policies and procedures for making sure that the welfare of the animals we studied is appropriately respected.'

An Iraqi war veteran, a patient at the Greater LA Veteran Center seeking treatment for his PTSD, told the DailyMail.com, says he has a view over the animal testing facility from his room.

He told us that he often hear dogs barking, and often sees them being taken out, one by one, for just five minutes at a time in the concrete, barren backyard behind the center which is next to the VA neurological research center.

But the veteran, who does not want to be named, did not realize what was happening until he read a report by the White Coat Waste Project. He was horrified.

'It's heart-breaking,' the veteran said. 'It's like a house of horrors.'

'Dogs are so beautiful, especially to veterans. And people just don't know what's going on.

'I have a therapy dog that help me with my PTSD. Having a therapy dog has been a huge part of getting me back into society, becoming a productive citizen again.

'We use dogs for war, we use dogs for therapy, and now we are going to hurt them? It's kind of an insult for them to do what they are doing to these dogs in our name. 

'I think it's outrageous. People need to know what is happening.'

He said that since news broke of the animal testing, that staff had become more 'secretive' and he would see them choosing to enter the center via the side door.

A research application, approved by the Inspector General of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, in October 2016, revealed the project entails breeding dogs at the Greater LA VA to suffer from the sleep disorder narcolepsy, injecting them with methamphetamines or antidepressants, and then killing them and removing their brains,' the representatives' letter revealed.

They argued that such 'harmful' experiments - classified as 'Category D' as they involve pain and distress - 'cannot reasonably be described as 'observational.'

'We are also concerned that without access to FOIA documents, we would not have known the VA was providing misleading information, or that dogs were even being used in these experiments at the Greater LA VA,' the letter continued.

They have demanded more details on the experiments, details of the dogs and the cost to the tax payer.

The inspector general is yet to respond to the representatives' letter. 

However, Re Lieu has said he plans to push the department to end the experiment while Rep Titus has called for 'action'.

California's members have been pushing for greater visibility over animal testing and its costs to the tax payer for the past year.