Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has announced the introduction of the Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act, or KITTEN Act, which would end the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) practice of killing kittens after they’re used in agency testing.
“In this testing, kittens are fed raw meat infected with parasites, which grow in the kittens and are later harvested for study. But instead of being treated after the study, the kittens are then killed. This is an archaic practice and horrific treatment, and we need to end it,” Merkley said. “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.”
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. The lab breeds up to 100 kittens per year. Once they’re 2 months old, the kittens are fed parasite-infected raw meat. Their feces are then collected and parasitic eggs are harvested for use in other experiments. Once the eggs are collected, the 3-month-old kittens are killed and incinerated—even though the kittens could easily be treated and adopted out.
The Centers for Disease Control, American Veterinary Medical Association, and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges say that these kittens are safe to have as pets. That’s why Merkley secured language in the Senate Appropriations Committee agricultural bill that urges USDA to consider alternative testing methods to infecting and killing kittens.
The KITTEN Act would fully protect these kittens by requiring that the Secretary of Agriculture end the use of kittens and cats in any USDA experiments that unnecessarily hurts the animals. A House version of the bill (H.R. 5780) was introduced in June by Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI-08) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-20), and has 60 other bipartisan cosponsors—46 Democrats and 15 Republicans—including Oregon Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, and Peter DeFazio.