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USDA Removes Animal Welfare Information From Public Access

By Aly Semigran    February 09, 2017 / (4) comments

On Friday, February 3, 2017, the United States Department of Agriculture abruptly removed thousands of documents, research, and data once available to the public, law enforcement, and animal welfare agencies from its website. 


The information that is no longer available was used by commercial pet breeders, animal researchers, and facilities such as zoos and aquariums, to ensure standards and protocols that protect the health and safety of animals. The guidelines in the Horse Protection Act (which protects horses from being hurt in shows) were also part of the USDA online purge. 


In a statement released on its website, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said: "As a result of the comprehensive review, APHIS has implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication."


With the information now purged, the USDA and APHIS recommends that any person or organization seeking reports or data should apply for a Freedom of Information Act request. 


The decision has outraged many, particularly those who protect the rights of animals. In a statement, PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo called the decision, a "shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Public taxes fund these agencies and the public should not be kept the dark because the feds would rather shield abusers than hold them accountable." 


John Goodwin, the senior director of The Humane Society's Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, tells petMD, "We rely on that data to put together our reports every year, to release various reports and studies to let consumers know about who some of the worst offenders are in the world of commercial dog breeding." 


He adds, "Perhaps, most shocking, is that when the data was purged, the USDA did not take into consideration that law enforcement agencies in seven states relied on that information to enforce laws they have that say pet stores cannot acquire puppies from commercial breeders that have severe animal welfare violations." In short, this means that the worst violaters of puppy breeding could potentially get away with their unlawful practicies. 


Goodwin says that it's of the utmost urgency to get the USDA to put the data back up on its website, since gathering information through the Freedom of Information Act can take a long time—up to a year in some instances. "In the cases of violating these pet store sourcing laws, the statute of limitations will have come and gone by the time local agencies get the information," he says. "It’s going to help no one except people who have hurt animals, gotten caught, and don’t want the world to know." 


As organizations like The Humane Society, as well as all animal-related industries who want to remain up to legal standards push for the USDA to reverse their decision, Goodwin says that concerned citizens can send a call to action online. In addition, individuals can write and call their representatives and senators urging them to act on this matter.


Until the problem is rectified, Goodwin says that The Humane Society will spend "every minute of every waking day working on this issue." 


Image via Shutterstock 


Comments  4

Leave Comment
    02/16/2017 02:31pm

    Mankind is king of beasts, his brutality exceeds theirs.
    If you regard animals as meaningless, you’re a amoral Stone Age barbarian, not fit for …. Do not hurt animals, we’ve hurt them enough; save their lives and preserve their habitats. DO IT NOW !

  • USDA removal of records
    02/16/2017 04:06pm

    This is ridiculous. It only opens the gates for abusers to continue their evil deeds! There are a lot of people who will get involved when they see any abuse & this only opens the door for abusers since they won't be worried about being arrested or having their animals removed from the situation. What give the USDA the right to make it easier for the abuse to continue? These files should be returned immediately to allow it easier to report these people! Animals have no voices. We humans must be their voices & protectors.

  • Is Trump to blame for thi
    02/16/2017 08:02pm

    Who made the decision to do this? Are they in an elected office? I am so disappointed in our government and the unconscionable decisions that have been made about the things that REALLY matter. It appears that all LIFE - every living thing - comes a distant second to the protection of corporate greed (with the singular exception of ONLY the human zygote (which is not a life issue, but a control issue - to keep women out of responsible, well-paying jobs). It must logically be so, since those espousing this have zero interest in it's welfare, once it is born - It goes to the back of the line (unless born to a wealthy family, of course). Any other motivation (such as respect for life) is logically inconsistent with all of their other actions and rhetoric (pro-war, pro-death penalty, against any regulation that protects people or animals, or even the earth, and against school lunches for poor children, against day-care so women can work to keep a roof over their children's heads, and it goes on and on.

    I'm absolutely sick over what the USDA has done and I highly resent being deprived of information that should be freely available to every American. The only possible rational for depriving people and regulatory/ enforcement organizations of this information is to hide barbaric criminal activity toward living creatures.

    A priority, to me, would be to find out WHO is responsible for it, publicize their name(s), and apply public pressure for such reprehensible behavior. It's possible that might have results. As long as the action can be hidden behind the name of a government group and remain anonymous, it's hard to place the blame and shame. If the responsibility can be attached to the instigator(s) by name, it might get changed.

    Also, people should let their state and federal representatives know (repeatedly) that they are not going to vote for representatives who fail to protect innocent animals from their abusers. (Get their voting records from the Humane Society - they have the information on how YOUR representatives vote). Abuse an animal - Go to jail! Lay the blame and the shame by name(s). Turned Michael Vick around, didn't it?

  • 02/16/2017 09:51pm

    This is totally unbelievable and unacceptable! The public is entitled to this pet information. Total disclosure and nothing less!

    As it is there are far too many cruel people that get away with too much animal abuse and only a few maybe, just maybe..get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

    It's about time for stiffer pet abuse penalties and the complete close down of all puppy mills - by making them against the law - with jail time and a stiff - several thousand dollar penalty fine for those caught ...where ever they show up!

    I demand that you immediately put all that pet information back into public hands! Where it belongs!!!