Humane Society challenges USDA for hiding animal welfare data

The Humane Society of the United States announced on Monday that it is taking legal action after the removal of years of records by the United States Department of Agriculture from their public website this past week.

According to the organization, the HSUS took the first step to initiate legal action  challenging the action claimed by multiple animal advocacy groups as the undermining of a longstanding consensus about public access to information concerning laws, in turn frustrating state, local, and industry efforts to help enforce them. Records removed included reports for thousands of facilities including zoos, laboratories and commercial breeders – especially worrisome are puppy mill businesses. These records had previously been accessible through the public database website of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection. In the Humane Society’s president’s blog,  Wayne Pacelle questioned why the USDA wouldn’t want their work to be part of the public’s database; stating the government agency’s  “action suggests a deliberate effort to bury its work and impede efforts to ensure the well-being of animals in numerous sectors.”

The HSUS does have a particular advantage in this fight however. In 2005, the HSUS sued the USDA, alleging the department violated the Freedom of Information Act by not providing records relating to animal experiments at research facilities. In 2009, a settlement was reached with the USDA who agreed to post records online including information referencing pain and distress in laboratory animals. And on Monday, the HSUS stated the USDA has violated their agreement:

“The agency’s precipitous decision to purge virtually all AWA and HPA enforcement documentation – just two weeks after President Trump assumed office — violates the plain terms of the settlement and a federal court order. It also runs contrary to Congressional provisions in 1996 and 2016 designed to increase transparency and electronic access to information,” Pacelle wrote in his blog .”Like every federal agency, the USDA operates thanks to the generosity of taxpayers, and it must be accountable to them. The USDA is changing the equation for the worse for animals and the public with this action.

The USDA has since cited privacy concerns for removing the records from its website, stating that anyone wanting information still has the right to receive information via a FOIA request. Those requests can take months to request and are often very costly. The public records have been used for animal shelters, rescues and advocacy groups as well as journalists covering animal welfare issues.

The following specific areas have been addressed:

  • Animal Research – The public will no longer have access to information about hundreds of animal research institutions, including universities, pharmaceutical companies, and federal laboratories using animals regulated under the AWA. This includes information on the number and type of animals (such as dogs, cats, primates, and other species) used as well as how many are subjected to unrelieved pain and distress.
  • Horse Soring – Advocates fighting the criminal behavior of the pain-based Big Lick segment of the walking horse industry has been canned. The new administration earlier froze a near-finalized USDA rule to crack down on the abusers (there’s a major movement in Congress to turn that around).
  • Exotic Animals and Roadside Zoos – The HSUS has tracked violations from inspections of roadside zoos, and has put that information in a form that gives state and federal lawmakers and regulators a broad picture of how this industry is complying with the AWA. On Monday, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a zoo accrediting organization, stated the move only erodes the public trust in high quality facilities while hiding those who mistreat animals.
  • Puppy Mills – Last year, the USDA revoked the licenses of nine horrific puppy mills, most of which The HSUS had identified repeatedly in their annual Horrible Hundred reports. Without the availability of public inspection records, The HSUS will have great difficulty obtaining the information  needed to press the agency on the egregious puppy mills being investigated. The USDA’s decision now leaves regulated dog sellers in those states with no practical way to comply with those laws, and state and local law enforcement with almost no ability to enforce them. Without ready access to information, it will be nearly impossible for consumers, law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and pet stores to know which breeders had violations.

In response the U.S Department of Agriculture released a statement referencing the removal of animal welfare reports from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stating the following:

“The review of APHIS’ website has been ongoing, and the agency is striving to balance the need for transparency with rules protecting individual privacy. In 2106, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”

(Photo of Humane Society of the United States puppy mill victim.)

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Read more about the USDA removing all records from their website.

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19 replies
  1. maxiemom says:

    Good. This administration, after less than 2 weeks, has so much to answer for. I never thought I could hate a president, but I do. I really, really do..

    Reply
      • ellen cottone says:

        WAKE UP ROGER ALLEN,
        What does the president have to do with this. the backers that footed the money so he could steal the election from the clintons . they want to instill factory farming. where an animal is stuffed in a plastic crate from birth till slaughter,.
        they will be introducing horse meat for human consumption, puppy mills with no regulations. no regulations for slaughter animals. trump is taking endangerd animals off the endangered list. even his wall in mexico will block animal migration routs inhibiting survival of 230 animal species. 58 being endangered. he is fighting to drill on protected lands in the anartic and alaska. he wants to mine in roadless national forests allof witch put wild life and clean water in jepardy

        just google forest lucas and his ties to trump roger then you will know what the president has to do with this.. and you will begin to understand our new reality.
        americans hav been fooled. this is the president of the free world? What really happened?
        I have my congressman, state govonor state senators on speed dial.
        i believe we have allies in congress and in the senant and they need to know how we feel.
        but we are out numbered. i believe in miracles. i believe god will help us but i believe we have to do the brave thing.
        we have to stand up to trump in the things that desturb us . i think he will respect us for that.

  2. Beth says:

    Thank goodness this matter is being challenged. This administration is a horror show. And thank goodness I have finally found Cheryl Hanna and my other favorite animal rescue writers from the Examiner which sadly was closed with no warning.

    Reply
      • Roger Allen says:

        No Mike you don’t have to like him just give him a chance can’t be any worst then the last 3 we’ve had

    • ellen cottone says:

      roger,
      this president means to do some serious harm to animal welfair rights clearly. mental problems you say?
      Trump shut down this web site.
      now you are a sensitive and informed animal rights supporter or you wouldnt be here with us. lets put our stupids aside for a min. we have to band together. we have to protest. loudly and constantally.
      because its all on the line. this isnt the only animal and protected lands trechery that has happened in the last few weeks.
      what are we going to do about it?
      WAITING TO GIVE THE PRES. A CHANCE IS NOT AN OPTION! Its time to organize and fight this mans agenda.
      His agenda is to drill on protected federal lands, he has overturned obamas NO on the dekota pipe line gushing millions of gallons of tar sand thru protected lands poisining fresh water. he placed a climate denier inthe role of EPA director. and an big oil executive.

      WE PEOPLE!?
      WHO DONT LIKE?!
      THE NEW PRESIDENT!!!!???
      I WOULD THINK THAT WOULD BE ALL OF US RITE NOW!!!!

      What are we going to do about it.
      waiting to see what happens is not an option.
      your silence will not help.
      Snap out of it roger and others like you.
      only a fool could believe trump , his lies and his sense of inhumanity.
      youve been played. he dosnt care about you and he is no american.

      Just a side thought,
      the trump family will be the first family to not own a dog or cat in the white house. speakes volumes to me how that clan feels about animals.
      they are product , to be skinned, hunted,worn,eaten, abused, neglected and to be made profit from there misery.

      AFTER ALL.
      THIS IS THE ONLY PRESIDENT TO SCRUB THE USDA WEBSITE.

      DEMAND TRANSPARANCY!!!!! FROM EXXON TRUMP!!!!!
      wake up people.

      Roger, he is counting on people like you to just blindly follow. and not get in the way. hes hoping we will all just roll over and not stand up to him and big oil.and unnessary animal lab testing.
      now you know.

      Reply
  3. Roger Allen says:

    Why haven’t I heard or read anything about this and if he shut the website down why am I still seeing it I do love animals and will fight for them but I need to see actions I also think that we do need to get rid of all the criminals that hurt our country including so called Americans who want to protest and burn our flag

    Reply
    • ellen cottoneas says:

      You just couldnt hear it or see it because you have the staunch blind trust in the institution. Of what it means to be president of the united states of america.

      No one can really burn the american flag. ill just go buy 2 more. As far as protest. It just means NO , thats wrong and were not havin it. I will quitely and firmly and with the grace of calverly stand up to it. Its my right.
      Im an american.
      This country was founded on it. This country was founded on a complaint.
      Its why the elders of your tribe stormed the beaches of normandy. Because as americans we have had the luxury of a great life.
      We know right from wrong so now we stand up to evil.
      we are on the verge of an american revolution. this time the stakes are american lands and wild life, freedom of speach and information. this is just the start of our privlages slipping away the first being transparancy.
      why doesnt trump not want us to know what he is doing with our land and out rights to know.
      what next.
      the big bully
      I will not live under the yoke of trumps tyranny.
      Trump swore 6months ago he would diassemble the EPA to tidbits.look it up.
      Allen he is trying to instill SCOTT PRUITT as EPA director. A climate denigher who will dismantal the agency so they will not be held acountable when they do permanate damage on the enviorment from drilling in protected forests, dangerious uranium mining, fracking,piplines cutting down protectedlands.
      I know what im going to do right now. I will call my senator both of them and tell them that i will expect them to block nominee scott pruitt big oil flunky from getting any where near the department of envirmental protection.
      And then hope and pray for an intervention.
      I am counting on you also Roger Allen.
      Because now you know

      Reply
  4. ellen cottone says:

    Friends, Romans and Country Men! lend me your ears!

    If you truly want to stand up for animals we have to come together and use the power of our voice.
    We are americans. elected officals must listen to us.

    As early as tomorrow the senate vote for trumps pick for head of the EPA.
    Climate denigher Scott pruitt. This is our last chance to resist polluter take over of the EPA.
    Every president since 1970 has worked along side the EPA and its gardian of fedral lands and wildlife.so dont let it be dismantaled by trump and his exxon oil crownies now in 2017
    Please!

    Fight it. stand up to it, tell your states senator right now. We have allies in the senate. you may be shocked to know they are also sick to death of this and are fighting to block.
    they want to know how you feel.
    We have to make it hard for trump to ruin the enviorment.

    This is from the League of the coservitive voters, The LCV, you can google for your senators link.
    1-855-621-7808
    This # will put you directally thru to your senator. take a deep breath. get your head together and call leave your name and your town. rember your talking to a united states senator and tell them
    NO, TO SCOTT PRUITT FOR EPA DIRECTOR.

    The league of conservative voters is also suing to have the USDA website put back up. Along with the ocean conservity, peta, sierra club. They feel that its already working. trump will buckle under the pressure. so speak your disgust at the pathetic attempt on our sacred lands and country.
    Call your senator,and shake your fist and scream it in the streets.
    Because this is what it means,
    To be American.

    Reply

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