Animal advocates were stunned on Friday when the U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly removed inspection reports and other relevant information from their website about the treatment of animals at research facilities, zoos, dog breeders and other facilities. According to a statement by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the organization cited a “comprehensive review” of court rulings and privacy laws “based on our commitment to being transparent … and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.”
According to Science, henceforth going forward, people wanting access to the information will need to file a Freedom of Information Act request. The same goes for inspection reports under the Horse Protection Act, which prohibits injuring horses’ hooves or legs for show. Those requests can take years to be approved.
“We remain equally committed to being transparent and responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals with whom we come in contact,” the statement said.
In the past, journalists, animal welfare advocates and concerned citizens have used the information to monitor the treatment of animals at circuses, in medical and scientific laboratories using animals and the treatment of animals at zoos. Much of the information available to the public was useful when proving egregious violations. The reports apply to 7813 facilities that keep animals covered by the law.
In addition, the public had been able to use the online database to find information referring to dog breeders. According to the Washington Post, seven states currently require stores to source puppies from breeders with clear inspection reports from the USDA. Humane societies have condemned this new secrecy contending the removal of the information will now allow animal abuse to go unchecked.
“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,” state John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, which uses federal records, and state inspection reports to publish dog breeding operations cited for welfare violations.
Many animal breeding facilities, popularly known as “puppy mills” have extensive histories of animal abuse resulting in horrific animal suffering. It is not known whether the new Trump administration ordered these changes, and it is not known if the removal is temporary or permanent, however businesses dealing with animals have consistently complained about animal protection groups. The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement:
“This action benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know.”
(Photo of puppy mill by HSUS)
Follow the National Pet Rescue on Facebook.