The U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.
The public (including pet stores) could also used the database to search for information about dog breeders. Seven states currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Now this requirement is nearly impossible to meet.
“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, which uses the federal records, as well as state inspection reports, to publish its annual “Horrible Hundred” dog breeding operations that have been cited for welfare violations.“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, which uses the federal records, as well as state inspection reports, to publish its annual “Horrible Hundred” dog breeding operations that have been cited for welfare violations.
Justin Goodman, the group’s vice president for advocacy and policy, said much of the information he has gathered on animal testing at hundreds of federal facilities — including inspection reports and annual reports that can include information on the species and numbers of animals used — came from the USDA-APHIS database. He said the department’s reference to privacy requirements were puzzling, because many of the documents were already heavily redacted.
“There was already a troubling lack of transparency about what happens in government-funded labs,” Goodman said. “This was a very important resource for us, and for every animal organization, in terms of tracking patterns of animal use and compliance, whether it’s in labs or other settings.”
The page USDA website page where the information was located now brings up the announcement about its removal.
The page directs you to submit a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. This takes time and money. There is a filing fee of $25, and a cost of $.20 per page of information retrieved, in addition to “clerical time” charged at $10-20 per hour. This is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process for someone filing a FOIA request.
ACTION: Humane Society Initiative
Tell the USDA to stop protecting animal abusers
Animal welfare advocates rely on the transparency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to publicly post regular inspection reports on thousands of commercial dog breeding operators, Tennessee Walking horse show participants, roadside zoos, aquariums, circuses, research labs and other facilities regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA).
On February 3, the USDA purged its website of all these reports with no warning or explanation. This outrageous action undermines longstanding consensus about public access to information concerning these laws and frustrates public interest, state, local and industry efforts to help enforce them.
Animals held in research facilities and puppy mills are shielded from public view, therefore these records are essential to ensure that these dogs, monkeys, rabbits and other animals are receiving basic care.
The USDA is changing the equation for the worse for animals and the public with this abrupt and destructive move. Your voice is needed to ensure that these records are restored.