There has been a concerning development in animal protection measuresin the past few days.On February 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture purged all information regardinginformation in relation to the Animal Welfare Act, including breeders, zoos, circuses, and testing labs.This pagenormally contains results of investigations and lists of the 9000 organizations which contain animals protected by the AWA.
The USDA put out a statement saying:
APHIS [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that contain personal information. These documents include inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence (such as official warnings), lists of regulated entities, and enforcement records (such as pre-litigation settlement agreements and administrative complaints) that have not received final adjudication.
They claim that there is ongoing legislation in regards to harassment against the listed businesses and labs by people who have gotten their information from their site, so as a precaution they removed all of it.[caption id="attachment_16951" align="alignnone" width="602"]
Examples of reports that were shown on the site. Source: The Dodo[/caption]However, this information is vital for outside investigators and journalists to uncover flagrant abuse that is often under-punished or ignored.Organizations likeCompanion Animal Protection Society(CAPS) keep an eye on reportsto make sure they are accurate and enforced. Deborah Howard, the association's president told The Dodo.
We've been the USDA's watchdog for 20 years. One way we use inspection reports is so that we can monitor USDA inspections. We also use the USDA reports to show which pet shops are using puppy mills. They put the reports online under Obama and it's been very useful for everybody. We compare our findings to the inspectors. If we didn't have those reports, we wouldn't be able to do our inspections.
This new update will also have an effect on investigations and validationson a state level. Jennie Lintz, director of the ASPCA Puppy Mills Campaign, told The Dodo:
Because a recent trend in state legislation has been to enact laws that rely on AWA violations to weed out 'bad actors' by prohibiting the sale of dogs from facilities with serious, documented violations, preventing consumers, pet stores and the public from readily accessing this information makes it nearly impossible to comply with these laws and to ensure that they are being enforced.
Now documents need to be obtained through theFreedom of Information Act, which requires an inquiry to be filed, and it can take several months before anything is processed.Thankfully, the USDA is open to criticism and this isn't necessarily a permanent change. They wrote in a statement:
These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.
To let them know that this is unacceptable, you can sign this petitionasking for the information to be restored.