Bills aim to end USDA’s ‘painful’ medical experiments on cats

Interesting facts about cats

(CNN) - A Democratic senator and a Republican congressman are teaming up to stop the U.S. Department of Agriculture from euthanizing kittens.

Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday introduced a Senate version of the KITTEN act of 2018. KITTEN stands for “Kittens In Traumatic Testing ends now.”

In part, the bill says, “In carrying out research, the Secretary may not purchase, breed, transport, house, feed, maintain, dispose of, or conduct experiments on cats as part of the conduct of any study that would subject cats to potentially painful or stressful procedures, including pain or stress that may be mitigated by anesthetics, analgesics, or tranquilizer drugs, except when such pain or stress is a result of a physical exam or training program.”

According to the White Coat Waste Project, 3,000 kittens have been killed in a USDA laboratory in Maryland in tests that have cost taxpayers more than $22 million.

Merkley says the USDA breeds up to 100 kittens a year, then feeds them parasite-infected meat to have the parasite’s eggs harvested for experiments. He said the kittens are then euthanized.

In May, a spokesman told CNN the use of cats is “essential” to research to combat a widespread parasite.

The spokesman said the figure of 100 cats euthanized a “serious over-estimation.”

“Our goal is to reduce the spread of toxoplasmosis,” the USDA said in May. “Adopting laboratory cats could, unfortunately, undermine that goal, potentially causing severe infections, especially with unborn children or those with immunodeficiencies.”

Outgoing Republican Rep. Mike Bishop introduced the House version of Merkley’s bill.

Merkley said he has spoken with veterinarians who said the kittens could be adopted rather than euthanized after the research once they are treated for the parasite.

Copyright 2018 CNN. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network contributed to this report.