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Vern Buchanan calls for V.A. probe of dog abuse

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

After reading published reports documenting experiments on dogs being conducted by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has contacted the Inspector General for the VA to demand answers about what’s going on there.

Stars and Stripes and Military Times reported last month that an animal rights activist group has accused the VA of conducting medical experiments on dozens of dogs at a Virginia laboratory with insufficient public disclosure on the practice. Those reports experiments reportedly induced heart attacks, invasive brain-damaging surgeries and a variety of stomach ailment simulations which mutilate or kill the animals.

“I urge you to investigate this situation and share your feelings with my office,” Buchanan wrote to VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal last Friday. “Specifically, I am interested in learning why these experiments are not being adequately disclosed to the public, whether animals are being harmed unnecessarily and whether taxpayerd dollars are being misused.”

Working through documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. the group White Group Waste Projects says they have found three instances of violations in the research program at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va.

The groups says that lab experiments have induced heart attacks on the dogs and for some resulted in “sudden cardiac death.” Another report details a botched surgery, a doctor mistakenly sliced into a dog’s lung, killing the dog.

The Government Accountability Office says it will be doing an audit of the animal testing at McGuire and at other federal agencies.

“VA animal research is strictly controlled and monitored with accountability mechanisms in place,” the VA said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. “As part of that commitment, VA takes seriously any reports of not adhering to standards and will immediately review and correct processes if and when those issues arise.”

Buchanan is the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and was named as the U.S. Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year  last year.

“While we should do all we can to ensure that veterans are getting the treatment and care they deserve, I also feel strongly that the public has a right to know how taxpayer dollars are being spent – and the extent of any experimentation on animals – at the VA,” Buchanan writes.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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