This kitten’s name was Copper. Copper was sold to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs lab in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was less than a year old. Staff described him as “active, friendly, playful to personnel.”

At the Cleveland lab, Copper was cut open, mutilated by having his spinal cord intentionally damaged, and implanted with a remote-controlled device to make him urinate on demand. 

Then Copper was killed, even though he could have been adopted into a loving home. Copper wasn’t quite two when he died. He’d spent more than half his life being abused in the government lab.

And you paid for it. 

 

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, White Coat Waste Project investigators recently uncovered photographic and video evidence of barbaric experiments the VA is conducting on cats in three secret government labs.

We’ve got receipts showing the VA has spent more than $8.4 million taxpayer dollars buying, disabling, dismembering, and killing dozens of cats in Cleveland, Louisville, and Los Angeles.

We expect to get more disturbing information about the experiments, based on a public records lawsuit we’ve filed against the VA over records they’ve so far withheld in violation of federal law.

With available records, we’ve pieced together the doomed cats’ histories. These are healthy cats and kittens as young as six months old, who are no different from the cats we live with and love—other than how they are treated. 

As the Nevada Current put it in a recent article about our exposé, ”The Veterans Administration is doing things to cats that would land an individual in jail.” 

The details of these painful, invasive experiments are heartbreaking and brutal.

The kittens and cats trapped in the Cleveland VA lab are used for incontinence and constipation experiments. VA experimenters insert “fake poop” made of bran, potato flour, and saline into some living cats’ anuses, then induce spinal cord injuries, and kill them. Some of the cats have remote control devices inserted into their bladders to make them urinate on demand, before they, too, are killed.

Dozens of female cats at the VA’s Louisville facility are used in spinal cord injury experiments in which they are maimed, undergo brain surgery, and are forced to walk on treadmills and obstacle courses. The cats then have parts of their brains removed to render them unconscious before undergoing additional testing, after which they’re killed and dissected.

And in Los Angeles, the VA is drilling holes in cats’ skulls and implanting electrodes in their heads to study their brain activity while they sleep. In some cases, experimenters intentionally cut off the cats’ oxygen while they sleep. These cats are also killed and de-brained in the sickening experiments.

The VA is wasting time and money on these outrageously cruel, unproductive, and outdated experiments when these studies could, and should, be done more efficiently, effectively, and humanely with human volunteers suffering from illnesses instead of paralyzing and mutilating cats and kittens. 

Records show the kittens experience distress, depression, seizures, and bloody urine during the time they are alive—and sometimes their lives end earlier even than planned, due to mistakes and accidents. 

 

That’s what happened to the cat known only as 17LMI3; no name, just a number tattooed into his ear. Records show 17LMI3 was born on August 31, 2017. He was shipped to the Cleveland VA just under a year later, where he was used in the lab’s “fake poop” study, and killed about a year after that. 

Lab notes show Cleveland VA staff found 17LMI3 to be “active” and “playful.” The procedures 17LMI3 was subjected to were sometimes “painful,” and the cat was left with blood in his urine. 

On July 30, 2019, 17LMI3’s lungs collapsed while undergoing what should have been a routine scan. The last note in his file says 17LMI3 was killed due to the botched procedure. 

We can stop this. 

Last year we successfully shut down the government’s largest cat lab—the USDA’s notorious “kitten slaughterhouse” lab in Maryland, where the butchered remains of cats and dogs purchased from China’s wet markets were fed to healthy kittens. More than 3,000 kittens were killed, at a cost of more than $22 million taxpayer dollars. 

When we got the kitten slaughterhouse closed down for good, we also adopted out the lab’s survivors, who now, finally, live as they should: pampered, well-loved family members.

Now, we’re taking on the VA’s cat labs.

The VA has a notoriously poor record, when it comes to experimenting on animals.

Two separate reports were published just this summer criticizing the agency’s dog testing program. First the National Academies of Sciences issued a scathing review of dog testing at VA labs, finding most VA dog testing is unnecessary, and the VA needs to step up efforts to prevent wasteful dog tests and develop and use alternatives. Then the agency’s Inspector General concluded in another report that the VA illegally experimented on 51 dogs in unauthorized experiments.

Now the VA’s cat experiments are coming under fire, because of our investigation. Thirty lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have already signed onto our effort. Led by Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Army veteran Brian Mast (R-FL), the Congress members sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie expressing their “grave concerns about painful and outdated cat testing at the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

A September 2020 poll of 1,000 Americans found that a majority want to see this waste and abuse come to an end. Celebrity cat advocate Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw just joined our campaign as well, making an amazing (a-meow-zing!) video about our efforts to shut down the VA’s sick cat experiments:

We urgently need your help, too. The most important thing is to let decision makers know that you care about this issue and don’t want your money spent to abuse cats:

Congress will take action if they know their constituents care and are paying attention.

We’ll keep you updated on our blog and social media, as well.  

We have documents and purchase orders showing that the VA intends to buy and cut up and kill more kittens, very soon. These are kittens just like Copper and 17LMI3. 

Except with your help, we hope to make their fates infinitely better. 

Anthony Bellotti is founder and president of White Coat Waste Project.  His life was changed after a summer internship in an animal experimentation laboratory 25 years ago.

Rebekah DeHaven is a White Coat Waste Project board member.  She is an attorney and advocate who strives to use the law and politics to raise public awareness and end animal abuse.

Photo by Lisheng Chang on Unsplash


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