Letter: Support for CATS

Letter to the Editor

The incoming First Family recently made animal-lovers’ hearts sing by announcing that they’re adopting a cat to join their German shepherds Champ and Major in the new White House. 

President Joe Biden now has another opportunity to save cats’ lives—and tax dollars—if he backs the bipartisan effort led by Malibu-area Congressman Ted Lieu and other Los Angeles-area lawmakers to end inhumane and wasteful experiments on cats and kittens by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at its facility in Los Angeles.

Recently, an investigation and open records lawsuit by government watchdog group White Coat Waste Project exposed that the LA VA in Brentwood has been spending our tax dollars to buy healthy cats described as “friendly” and “curious” and perform outdated and deadly brain experiments on them.

As healthcare professionals who’ve worked with patients at the VA and elsewhere and conducted human subjects research, these projects strike us as wasteful, cruel and unnecessary. The anatomy and physiology of cats and humans differs dramatically, making any results from animal tests unlikely to translate to people. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s irresponsible for the VA to waste precious research money and time on superfluous animal tests. 

In fact, the VA is the last agency in the entire federal government still doing painful cat tests. Fortunately, change is afoot.

In December, a bipartisan congressional coalition of 30 lawmakers including Air Force veteran Rep. Lieu and Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte) introduced the Cat Abuse in Testing Stops (CATS) Act to permanently end the VA’s painful experiments on cats and kittens.

And, in the 2021 federal spending bill recently signed into law, congress renewed legislation directing the VA to phase out testing on cats, dogs and primates by 2025. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)—who serves on the committee that controls funding for the VA and other federal agencies—wrote in a letter to constituents, “As a pet owner, I am outraged by cruel experiments animals are forced to suffer through … I would certainly support ending the VA’s testing on cats, dogs, and primates sooner…”

With 32 million U.S. households counting cats as members of the family, it won’t shock anyone that nearly three-quarters of Americans want to cut funding for the VA’s archaic and abusive cat tests. Hopefully, our new feline-friendly First Family is among them and President Biden will support this homegrown effort to end the government’s abuse of kittens in outdated experiments with our tax dollars in LA and beyond.

Lawrence Hansen, MD, is a professor of pathology at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine. Katie Lawlor, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist in Northern California who trained at several Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Catherine Lawlor