Derek Hunter’s op-ed on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research involving cats contained misinformation and hyperbole that deserve a response (“Ending taxpayer-funded kitty cruelty,” Web, May 22).
Washington Times readers deserve to know why the research is being conducted in the first place. The studies are aimed at combating a dangerous parasite called toxoplasma, which can infect humans. Those at greatest risk are pregnant women who, if exposed, can transmit the disease to their unborn children, causing serious brain and eye damage.
Cats are involved in the research because they are the only animals that produce toxoplasma eggs once they have ingested the parasite. The cats themselves are not harmed. However, their feces are used in important health studies to combat illness caused by the parasite. While nobody disagrees that this research is important, the USDA is right to be extremely cautious about offering up for adoption animals that previously carried this dangerous parasite. While rare, some cats can shed the parasite throughout their lives, according to veterinarians with expertise in these types of infections. This places Americans at risk.
While public involvement in our nation’s policies is crucial, decisions need to be based on facts and real-life risks, not on emotionally charged PR spin.
Executive director, Americans for Medical Progress