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Zablocki VA Under Fire for Using Dogs for Medical Research

The Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee is being criticized for using dogs for medical testing. The group, White Coat Waste Project, based in Washington D.C., said Zablocki is one of four VA Medical Centers around the country doing this. The group paid for a billboard at S. 92nd Street and W. Schlinger Avenue in West Allis to get their point across that they are not happy.

"(This) billboard at least alerts taxpayers to what they're being forced to pay for and give them a way to contact Congress and ask for it to be ended," said Justin Goodman, with White Coat Waste Project.

The group did research and found 52 dogs were used in 2016, 18 the year before that, and none in 2014. Documents obtained by CBS 58 showed that studies would be done with adult dogs, typically purpose-bred Beagles, in "acute" experiments. They would "be deeply anesthetized and decerebated so as to cause a complete loss of consciousness and sensation." White Coat would rather see no dogs at all, and said 300,000 people have written to Congress asking that it be stopped.

"Certainly Veterans, and other people, do not want or need this type of horrible cruelty," Goodman added.

"We are not abusing animals, we are saving lives," said Gary Kunich, a spokesman with the Zablocki VA Medical Center.

Kunich said their research is heavily monitored by the VA and other agencies including veterinary care, and mice and rats are used in 99% of the research. One research project, in particular, surrounded opioid use and breathing, with painkillers. 

Kunich said, "When somebody has a spinal cord injury, breathing does become an issue. So, if we can learn more about that, we can extend the life of these Veterans and restore their quality of life."

White Coat Waste Project thinks it is abuse.

"If what the VA is doing to dogs in its laboratories happened outside of the walls of that laboratory, that person would be charged with a felony, and that's a double standard that's impossible to reconcile," Goodman said.

Cleveland, Ohio has a billboard up, and similar ones will soon be up in Richmond, Virginia and Los Angeles, California. The one in West Allis will be up for a month.

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