In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to end the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's (USDA) use of kittens and cats in any experiment that unnecessarily harms the animals. In early April 2019, the USDA announced — independent of this bill — that it would end experiments on kittens. In its announcement, the USDA said, “toxoplasmosis research has been redirected and the use of cats as part of any research protocol in any ARS laboratory has been discontinued and will not be reinstated. ”
After the USDA made its announcement, Rep. Panetta said:
"I commend the USDA for their decision to end this type of testing on kittens. They listened to the people and responded appropriately to our concerns. This is how our institutions, our government, and our democracy should and must work. I thank the USDA, the White Coat Waste Project, former Rep. Mike Bishop, the cosponsors of my bill, and Senator Merkley for their work on our legislation and working to do what is right."
When he introduced this bill in the current Congressional session, Rep. Panetta said:
"This common sense, bipartisan bill will require the USDA to adhere to the same animal welfare standards that the department is charged to uphold. While I strongly support scientific research, taxpayer money and federal resources should be spent on advancing scientific research in an ethical manner, not on inflicting pain on kittens or killing them after they are used in agency testing. I hope this bill helps us get closer to ending this cruel practice."
When he reintroduced the Senate version of this bill in the current Congress, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said:
“The USDA’s decision to slaughter kittens after they are used in research is an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and we need to end it. The KITTEN Act will protect these innocent animals from being needlessly euthanized in government testing, and make sure that they can be adopted by loving families instead.”
Last Congress, Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI) introduced this bill to put an end to deadly USDA experiments on kittens:
“I’m shocked and disturbed that for decades the USDA — the very organization charged with enforcing animal welfare laws — has been unnecessarily killing hundreds of kittens in expensive and inefficient lab experiments. Any government research program like this one that’s been funded since the Nixon administration needs to be put under the microscope, especially when it involves using kittens as disposable test tubes in harmful tests that most taxpayers oppose.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) added:
“As a long-time cat owner, I was alarmed that the federal government has been secretly spending American’s tax dollars for archaic experiments on kittens, and then needlessly killing the healthy animals. Abusing pets in government labs with taxpayers’ money has to stop and I’ll continue to fight until it does.”
Hannah Shaw, a guest expert for Animal Planet and founder of animal advocacy project Kitten Lady, adds:
"The USDA’s archaic kitten experiments are out of step with 21st century research practices and animal welfare recommendations. Continuing to breed and kill perfectly healthy kittens for toxoplasmosis research is unethical and unnecessary and I’m grateful to Congressman Panetta for introducing the KITTEN Act to stop it once and for all."
Taxpayer watchdog group White Coat Waste Project has criticized the USDA's kitten research for a long time. Its Public Policy Manger, Noelle Callahan, says:
"Three thousand kittens killed and $22 million squandered for decades of cruel and unproductive USDA experiments is tragic whether you care about government waste, animal protection or both. Like a majority of Americans, our two-million-plus members want this nightmarish program ended and we applaud [this bill for its] outstanding leadership to end the USDA’s taxpayer-funded kitten slaughter."
This bill has 64 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 51 Democrats and 13 Republicans. The Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), has three Democratic Senate cosponsors.
Last Congress, this bill had 61 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 46 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Merkley, didn't have any cosponsors. Neither bill received a committee vote last Congress.
This bill has been endorsed by In Defense of Animals, White Coat Waste Project, and Save A Cat.
Of Note: A recent investigation by the White Coat Waste Project uncovered that the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) takes part in experiments on kittens that result in the deaths of the animals, and have been doing so for many decades. Since 1970, the USDA has spent $650,000 each year to infect and later kill kittens in its Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, MD
. There, the lab breeds up to 100 kittens a year and then feeds them Taxoplasma parasite-infected meat. The experimenters then collected the kittens’ feces for a period of 2-3 weeks to harvest the Taxoplasma parasite for use in other experiments, then
killed and incinerated the kittens at three months old. According to a USDA administrator in 2018, the agency has used 2,988 cats
in its research efforts since 1982.
Summary by Lucas McConnell
(Photo Credit: DepthofField / iStock)