The idea of dogs with remote control transistors implanted in their brains sounds like something out of an Orwellian nightmare. Sadly, this scenario wasn’t the plot of a dystopian sci-fi novel, but an actual government-funded project during the 1960s.
Newly released documents provided under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) include a letter written by a redacted individual that details a CIA program in which dogs were used in lab experiments for mind control. The letter written to a doctor whose name has also been omitted describes how six dogs had remote control transistors implanted in their brains to experiment with mind control. The goal was to send an electrical signal that would command the dog to run, turn, and stop by remote.
We’ve written about the disturbing details of the CIA’s mind control project, known as Project MKUltra before. The government experimented with mind control on hundreds of human subjects using psychedelic drugs over 11 years, before it was discontinued. Ethical concerns were brought up after at least one person died. All of it was in an effort to gain an advantage over the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War.
One of six dogs used in remote brain control by the CIA.
Controlling Fido’s brain
These new documents detailing the experimentation of remote control dogs seem to be the latest chapter in the government’s mind control projects of the mid-20th century.
A letter dated in 1967 and provided under an FOIA request by John Greenwald, founder of the site The Black Vault, outlines the procedure and success of the project. Needless to say, it’s all pretty warped.
“As you know, I spent about three years working in the research area of rewarding electrical stimulation of the brain,” the sender writes. “In the laboratory, we performed a number of experiments with rats; in the open field, we employed dogs of several breeds.”
The report outlines that the those “open field” experiments were for the primary purpose of controlling a dog’s behavior “by means of remotely triggering electrical stimulation of the brain.”
The letter’s sender goes on to describe the process of creating the remote control dogs, first working with a headset, but then opting for an embedded application to achieve different results. This is when the researchers moved to a brain surgery procedure that involved “embedding the electrode entirely within a mound of dental cement on the skull and running the leads subcutaneously to a point between the shoulder blades, where the leads are brought to the surface and affixed to a standard dog harness.”
From there, the scientists added a battery pack stimulator to a harness that would allow signals to be sent to the electrodes in the dog’s brain. While not exactly surprising, but nonetheless disturbing, the letter says that some side effects occurred, such as infection from a failure of the surgical wound to heal.
Diagram of the remote implant that would go in the dog’s brain.
The project had limited success
The details of the project go on to state that the researchers found some success with the remote control dogs at a distance limited to “200 yards at most.” The sender of the letter also lays out obstacles such as “How easily is the animal distracted and by what? If control is lost how may it be reestablished?”
It doesn’t appear that the remote control dog project went much further or was ever used in field missions, but other declassified reports mention the possibility of cats. (Because cats are so much more cooperative than dogs.)
Photos from experimental procedure that were meant to force the dog to hold its head higher.
Photo credit: Purina, The Black Vault