Cruel and painful invasive experiments on dogs at the behest of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have ended, according to the nonprofit White Coat Waste Project (WCW) and news reports.

Protocol documents obtained by the organization note that three studies involving canines are currently approved but that “[n]o work is currently being done or planned to be done with animals.”

One of the studies involves companion dogs with naturally-occurring cancer who were voluntarily enrolled in the study, and not harmed. However, the other two studies — one which involved performing open heart surgery on dogs and implanting pacemakers and catheters, then forcing the dogs to walk on treadmills, and the other which similarly posited to study “heart failure” in the innocent animals — are examples of the cruel and wasteful experiments WCW has been campaigning to end for years. 

“Our campaign spared countless dogs and cut millions in government waste as we enacted precedent-setting state and federal bipartisan legislation to defund the VA’s dog experiments,” said WCW Founder and President Anthony Belloti.  “Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to bankroll beagle abuse by bureaucrats in white lab coats.”

VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes did not confirm the agency had definitively terminated studies on dogs but offered the following statement via email, While there is nothing new to report at this time, VA remains committed to the reduction of research with canines, felines or non-human primates. We take this commitment seriously and continue to take all steps to do so without sacrificing the innovative strides in medical care improvements that our Veterans warrant. We will continue to remain transparent with our 5-year plan in reducing and or eliminating the use of sensitive species.”

That 5 year plan, covering through 2025, indicates that the “use of canines for specific research areas is likely to be required in the future.”

But veterans — including Rep. Brian Mast, who lost both his legs during service in Afghanistan— have increasingly joined the call to end animal testing, including by the VA. Mast told ABC8News that animal testing is “painful” and “cruel” and has been a key legislator advocating for a more compassionate — and more effective — approach. 

“We have to say that there is a line here that we will not cross,” he said.

Rep. Dina Titus, a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus who also has supported alternative methods to testing on animals, applauded the impact of WCW’s work and the VA’s stated decision to reduce or eliminate animal suffering. 

“There are many alternatives to animal testing that are both humane and yield better results so that we can save dogs, puppies and taxpayer money,” she said. “I applaud the VA from moving away from dog testing and will work to ensure other agencies follow their lead.”

In 2016, WCW released its “Spending to Death” report, which detailed government-funded testing on puppies and dogs, followed by a relentless campaign to defund dog experiments at the VA, which the organization claimed was conducting “the most painful dog tests in the entire federal government.”

Over the years, with support from Congress, veterans and whistleblowers, the exposés helped terminate experiments in which scientists drilled holes in beagles’ skulls, cut out living dogs’ hearts, and injected latex and methamphetamines into the dogs, according to WCW.

Other victories for dogs included the National Academy of Sciences criticizing at least one of the studies as “unnecessary” and an enacting a lab animal retirement policy — meaning the animals could have a chance at life after the lab, rather than euthanasia or being recycled into another gruesome experiment.

The impact for dogs is clear: In 2016, the VA reported using 220 dogs in experiments. But now, that number is down to zero, WCW reported.

To help other dogs and animals exploited in cruel, unreliable experiments, sign our petition today urging lawmakers and the Food and Drug Administration to end the outdated mandate of animal testing.

SIGN: Stop Requiring Cruel, Unreliable Animal Tests for US Pharmaceuticals