Dog research at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is going under the microscope. Yesterday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in Washington, D.C., began a formal review of studies involving nearly 100 canines at four VA facilities to determine whether the animals are being properly treated—and whether the work is necessary.
If VA decides to end its dog research, it will be the first time a federal agency has stopped working on an entire species of animals since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service effectively outlawed all biomedical research on chimpanzees in 2015, says Cindy Buckmaster, chair of the board of directors of Americans for Medical Progress, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes the need for animals in labs. “The findings from this report will impact how science is done on dogs across the country.”
The NASEM review traces back to a campaign launched by the White Coat Waste Project in March 2017. The Washington, D.C.–based animal activist group used a public records request to highlight—in TV ads, on billboards, and through a massive email campaign—what it called “the mistreatment of puppies in painful heart attack studies,” including alleged botched surgeries and widespread animal abuse, at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. (VA responded, saying the studies had been carefully vetted and complied with the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.)