The agency's inspector general will review the testing program after questions about whether it was properly authorized. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie has said that experiments on dogs sometimes involve "critical research" on traumatic spinal cord injuries to veterans.
The Department of Veteran Affairs' inspector general is reviewing whether the agency flouted regulations on dog experimentation, as a new bill was introduced to outlaw the often-gruesome testing.
In a letter to a bipartisan group of lawmakers, VA Inspector General Michael Missal said his office will probe whether nine ongoing dog studies were being carried out in violation of a law signed by President Donald Trump last year. That law said the VA secretary had to sign off on any such procedures, which animal advocates and members of Congress say are painful and unnecessary. The IG's letter was first reported by Stars and Stripes.
"We welcome the oversight from the inspector general," VA press secretary Curt Cashour said.
The VA maintains former Secretary David Shulkin verbally signed off on the experiments on the day he was fired by the president, but Shulkin has denied that claim. He told USA Today in November that he "wasn't asked, nor did I request a review for an approval" of the dog experiments.
In a letter last year to Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., current Secretary Robert Wilkie said the experiments include "critical research to investigate how to restore the ability of Veterans with traumatic spinal cord injuries to breathe properly and avoid repeated bouts of pneumonia and early death."
The current experiments include forced heart attack experiments at a veterans' center in Richmond, Virginia, and tests involving damaging dogs' spinal cords and collapsing their lungs in Cleveland in an effort to see how their cough reflexes respond to electrode treatments, according to the White Coat Waste Project, an animal advocacy group. A past VA experiment involved drilling into live dogs' skulls.