CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – 8News has learned that the National Institutes of Health has no plans for future purchases for dogs at the struggling Envigo breeding facility in Cumberland. The NIH has previously used dogs from the Virginia facility in ongoing experiments.
The NIH released a statement explaining that they do not discuss animal welfare investigations, but will take all allegations of animal cruelty seriously.
The NIH decision comes after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Envigo with multiple animal welfare violations. Meanwhile, 8News has learned more about these NIH experiments and what happens to some of the dogs after they leave the Cumberland breeding facility.
Envigo’s beagles have always been known to be used in medical research, but now 8News has discovered that some of the dogs traveled to a government lab in Maryland and were part of an invasive and deadly study at taxpayer expense.
“The abuses that have been uncovered at the Cumberland facility are really just the beginning of a nightmare for these dogs,” said Justin Goodman, senior vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, a group of taxpayer oversight.
Purchase records and research documents obtained by White Coat and shared with 8News show that Envigo has sold about 60 dogs over the past few years for use in septic shock experiments at the NIH.
“They have holes in their throats, bacteria are injected directly into them to cause pneumonia,” Goodman said.
According to the documents, the “placement of bacteria” leads to “pneumonia-induced sepsis.” The idea is to simulate human septic shock. Dogs that make it are treated with a therapy that involves a transfusion of granulocytes, a type of white blood cell, to see how dogs react and possibly how a human would react. All dogs are eventually euthanized.
Goodman said: “These are incredibly painful experiences.”
However, proponents of the study say the experiments could save lives. Sepsis is a life-threatening response to infection. The study documents note that sepsis and septic shock are major causes of suffering and death in hospitalized patients. The research papers defend the use of dogs in experiments stating, “The dog is the only large or small animal that replicates the distinct pattern of cardiovascular dysfunction seen over 7-10 days in human septic shock.”
Yet groups like White Coat argue that we are in the 21st century and there are other ways for government to do research. Goodman said, “Taxpayers should not be forced to foot the bill for these experiments which are not only cruel but incredibly wasteful.”
White Coat Waste Project conducted its own investigation called “Beaglegate”