LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has spent millions in taxpayer dollars to perform laboratory tests on cats at three facilities nationwide — including a secretive lab at the West Los Angeles VA.
The White Coat Waste Project, an advocacy group aimed at stopping taxpayer-funded experiments on animals, sued the VA to get the photos and documents pertaining to the experiments.
"These are healthy cats who are purchased from commercial breeders by the VA with our tax dollars, brought into the laboratory, locked in a tiny cage, mutilated, tortured, have chemicals injected into them, asphyxiated and then are killed and dissected," Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, said.
The photographs show the cats hooked up to electronic monitors, implanted with electrodes and eventually euthanized in the name of science.
Artemis, a 1-year-old cat purchased by the VA, was described in documents as purring, friendly and curious. Artemis was subjected to a procedure called a head implant, in which scientists drilled holes in his skull to test for sleep patterns.
After three years of tests, Artemis was euthanized due to the completion of the study, according to documents.
"It's exploiting veterans to basically get tax money to torture cats," Goodman said. "That's what's happening here. It's indefensible."
The agency, which was called on last year by Congress to explain the experiments, has admitted that it has spent nearly $5 million in taxpayer money on the testing at the West L.A. laboratory alone.
The VA claims that the experiments benefit vets because sleep disorders are associated with many of the consequences of combat experience, including post traumatic stress disorder.
"It blows my mind that we can fight a pandemic with a code, but they have to bash a cat in order to come up with some sleep pattern," Madeline Bernstein, president of the L.A. chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said. "It really doesn't make sense in 2021."
Both Goodman and Bernstein believe the studies offer no benefit for veterans at all.
"The studies that are done on a cat's brain, most medical experts say will not replicate in the human brain," Bernstein said.
Following congressional inquiries, the VA said it would be ending the secretive experiments later this year, but Goodman said he had his doubts.
"Based on our past experience with the VA, we always have to be very careful in accepting anything they say at face value," he said.
As for Congress, a bill called the CATS Act has been introduced. It would permanently ban unnecessary taxpayer-funded experiments on cats conducted by the VA. The act builds on other legislative efforts, including the PUPPERS Act, to permanently ban all unnecessary animal testing at the VA.
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