A taxpayer watchdog group has filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs, seeking the release of records related to taxpayer-funded experiments on cats, according to a Sept. 2 news release.
White Coat Waste Project (WCW), which advocates defunding animal experiments, alleged in a recent investigation that the Los Angeles VA has spent nearly $5 million to buy live cats for sleep experiments. It then implants electrodes in their skulls, kills them and removes their brains, the group states.
VA denies this, saying it has only spent less than $14K per year over the past three fiscal years "to buy live cats" for research needed to find better ways to treat sleep disorders suffered by Veterans with PTSD and other combat-related disorders.
WCW said it solicited all documents and records of such experiments from the VA through a Freedom of Information Act request in January, adding that it brought the lawsuit when the department failed to respond after eight months.
"We filed this open records lawsuit because taxpayers have a right to know how our money is being spent so we can hold the VA accountable for forcing Americans to pay for this wasteful kitten catastrophe," said Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at WCW.
VA spokeswoman Susan Carter said the department does not comment on pending litigation, adding that WCW has "spent years falsely claiming that VA's lifesaving research with canines was not scientifically necessary."
According to Carter, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has cited the necessity of using animals for medical research at the VA.
"WCW's attempts to ban VA animal research are rooted in emotion rather than science," she said.
The VA's fiscal 2021 funding bill, passed by the House on July 24, zeroes out funding for any experiments on dogs that cause pain or distress requiring pain medication, with narrow exceptions for service dog training programs. But a bipartisan coalition of 30 members of Congress, led by Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Army veteran Brian Mast, R-Fla., sent a letter last month to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, criticizing the cat experiments.
The sleep study on cats "is taking place despite the fact that the Los Angeles VA ended sleep disorder experiments on dogs in 2017 after it was determined that the tests were unnecessary and that alternatives were available," the letter states.
In a statement, Mast wrote, "The VA's continued use of taxpayer dollars to conduct painful and invasive experiments on cats is unacceptable. These tests are unnecessary, and they must come to an end. It's time we got some answers!"
-- Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include additional comment from the VA addressing claims on expenditures.
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