Two cats visit Capitol Hill to thank lawmakers who helped end 'kitten slaughterhouse'

Two cats visit Capitol Hill to thank lawmakers who helped end 'kitten slaughterhouse'
© From the offices of Rep. Brian Mast and Sen. Jeff Merkley

Two cats this week visited lawmakers who have played a role in ending a decades-old Agriculture Department program that performed experiments on the felines. 

The cats, Delilah and Petite, who had survived the so-called kitten slaughterhouse visited Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyMcConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback Warren bill would revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre MORE (D.-Ore.) and Rep. Brian MastBrian Jeffrey MastA new way to address veteran and military suicides VA might not be able to end veteran homelessness, but we shouldn't stop trying GOP lawmaker mistakenly wishes Navy happy birthday with photo of Russian ship MORE (R.-Fla) on Thursday, according to NBC News


They were brought to the Capitol by advocacy group White Coat Waste Project (WCW), which seeks to end "taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs, monkeys, cats and other animals," according to its website. 

WCW confirmed the visit in a statement to The Hill, noting that the cats had been adopted out by the Agriculture Department. 

"I’m so glad you're freed," Merkley said while holding Delilah in his office, NBC reported. 

Mast also said he appreciated the visit.

"It's not often that you necessarily get to just, you know, have in your office and see the results of some of the work that you do," Mast said. "For me, it's nice to have you bring them in here, and to see the results of a little bit of the work that we got to do out there."

According to NBC News, the Agriculture Department in 1982 began infecting cats with toxoplasmosis and then euthanizing them to try to learn how to fight the disease at a lab in Maryland. 

"But these were healthy, healthy adoptable kittens," WCW President Anthony Bellotti told NBC. "Toxoplasmosis is something that is treatable."

The group also said experiments at the facility included feeding cats tainted cat meat, the WCW found.

The $22 million program resulted in the deaths of 3,000 cats, NBC reported. 

Both Delilah and Petite, who visted the lawmakers, had been used to breed kittens for the lab. 

Mast and Merkley had introduced legislation called the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act to stop the testing. The Agriculture Department later announced it would end the program in April.