MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

D.C. group claims USDA kills hundreds of kittens a year inside Maryland lab

D.C. group claims USDA kills hundreds of kittens a year inside Maryland lab (Photo courtesy of USDA)

A D.C. watchdog group says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been killing hundreds of kittens that could have been adopted.

UPDATE — The USDA tells ABC7 News that the total number of kittens killed in toxoplasmosis research at the Maryland lab in past five years is:

  • 2017 - 30 killed
  • 2016 - 50 killed
  • 2015 - 34 killed
  • 2014 - 44 killed
  • 2013 - 63 killed

The USDA is still compiling the total number of kittens raised and killed in the project over its 40 years of operation.

UPDATE — A major development in a 7 On Your Side I-Team investigation that ABC 7 broke on Monday.

A bill is being introduced in Congress to put a stop to the killing of kittens at USDA lab in Maryland. Congressman Mike Bishop (R-MI) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) are co-sponsors of "Kitten Act of 2018" which stands for Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act.

Congressman Bishop says: “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan KITTEN Act to put a stop to USDA’s tax-funded experiments on cats and kittens. My constituents and other Americans have made it clear that they don’t want the federal government spending their hard-earned tax dollars to abuse and kill cats in cruel, inhumane and outdated experiments. The USDA must stop killing kittens, and I hope to work collaboratively with the agency towards that goal.”

Justin Goodman, Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy at White Coat Waste Project says: “Sickening and killing kittens with taxpayers’ money is un-American and we’re grateful to Congressmen Bishop and Panetta for their swift and decisive bipartisan action to end this waste and abuse.”

Congressman Panetta says: “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should be spent on advancing scientific research in an ethical manner, not on inflicting pain on innocent kittens in outdated experiments. I hope this bill helps us get closer to ending this cruel practice.”

Here's a look at Kitten Act 2018:

UPDATE — The USDA tells ABC 7 that the project uses perhaps a few dozen cats a year. Internal documents ABC 7 has seen from the project estimate it could use 300 kittens over 3 years based on estimates from previous year’s work.

The project is funded thru May of 2021 at a taxpayer’s cost of $650,000 a year.

The USDA. adds:

While toxoplasmosis accounts for only one percent of the illnesses caused by the top 14 foodborne pathogens, the disease results in eight percent of the hospitalizations, 25 percent of the deaths, and 21 percent of the costs. USDA’s Agriculture Research Services or ARS and others continue to look for methods that would not require the use of cats for this research. USDA research at ARS from these studies has been internationally credited with helping to cut the prevalence of T. gondii by as much as 50 percent in the United States and Europe. The research is likewise credited with reducing T. gondii in market-age pigs, which also suffer from toxoplasmosis, from 23 percent in 1984 to currently less than 1 percent in the United States alone. ARS research discovered the life-cycle of T. gondii, improving detection of this and related pathogens leading to efforts to control their impact on livestock and humans. ARS has developed safety guidelines used by food safety authorities throughout the world today. As a result, much of the critical farm management practices and hygienic measures to control and prevent transmission of this disease used today are based on ARS research. Closer to home for most of us, ARS science is why cat litter has a prominent warning advising pregnant women to avoid changing litter boxes and to have litter boxes in our homes changed daily.

Justin Goodman, Vice President of White Coat Waste Project states:

If the USDA had its way, it would continue secretly slaughtering kittens with taxpayers’ money for another 50 years, but the cat is out of the bag. USDA’s abuse of kittens is archaic and wasteful, and the agency’s antiquated practice of killing and incinerating hundreds of healthy kittens is at odds with CDC and other authorities who state clearly that cats exposed to toxoplasma parasite are safe to keep as pets, even for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. If USDA is incapable of doing more efficient and humane research than it did decades back when The Beatles broke up and gas was 36 cents-a-gallon, it’s high time to cut the purse strings.

White Coat Waste Project obtained pictures inside the U.S.D.A. lab in Beltsville, Maryland where it claims scientists breed and raise 100 kittens a year and then kills them.

White Coat Waste Project, a taxpayer watchdog group, discovered the experiments through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Federal documents detail how the Animal Parasitic Disease Lab takes 100 two-month-old kittens and feeds them toxoplasma-infected raw meat. Their feces is collected to harvest a parasite so scientists can help fight against food borne illnesses in humans and then the healthy kittens are euthanized.

Justin Goodman, the Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy for White Coat Waste Project says "I think most tax payers would be alarmed and disgusted to learn that for decades they have essentially been funding a USDA kitten slaughter house here in Beltsville right outside the Beltway."

USDA documents show the kittens fed the infected food usually don't get sick.

The kittens are housed behind a security fence in building 1040 in Beltsville and 7 On Your Side would like to know why is the U.S. government killing kitten and not adopting them out?

U.S. Congressman Michael Bishop of Michigan is asking the same questions in this new letter to the USDA. Bishop says he's shocked and the project creates life to destroy life.

Link to Congressman Michael Bishop’s letter to the U.S.D.A. :

The U.S.D.A. tells ABC 7:

“Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most widespread parasites in the world. The disease it causes—toxoplasmosis--is considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States. The parasite is spread by cats that prey on infected birds, mice and other animals. Cats excrete a form of the parasite in their feces and contact with infected cat feces is how most people in the U.S. come in contact with T. gondii.

Unborn children who are infected can suffer mental retardation, seizures, and blindness. A World Health Organization panel estimated that toxoplasmosis has infected more than 10 million people globally. Women newly infected with Toxoplasma during pregnancy and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware that toxoplasmosis can have severe consequences, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research at ARS has been internationally credited with helping to cut the prevalence of T. gondii by as much as 50 percent in the United States and Europe. ARS research discovered the life-cycle of T. gondii, improving detection of this and related pathogens and to efforts to control their impact on livestock and humans. ARS has developed safety guidelines that are used by food safety authorities throughout the world today. As a result, much of the critical farm management practices and hygienic measures to control and prevent transmission of this disease used today are based on ARS research. The information has also been critical in the guidelines for handling litter boxes worldwide.

ARS makes every effort to minimize the number of cats used to produce the T. gondii eggs (oocytes) required for research. This is the only way to produce the oocytes. At this short notice, 7 On Your Side cannot provide an exact count, however 100 is a serious overestimation.

U.S.D.A. does not seek adoptions of these cats because of the risk the cats could pose to their adoptive families. Our goal is to reduce the spread of toxoplasmosis. Adopting these cats could, unfortunately, undermine that goal, potentially causing severe infections, especially with unborn children or those with immunodeficiencies. ARS regularly inspects research animals and complies with best management practices in animal research.”

ABC-7 veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson says any sick kitten can be treated and it's rare that any kitten would pass along the parasite to other cats or humans.

Nelson adds “I think there is no reason why these kittens could not be adopted out afterwards with proper treatment of the kitten and proper education of the potential adopter I see no reason they couldn't find homes."

This story has been updated on Friday, May 18, 2018, at 4:40 p.m.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending