These days news seems to be ever changing and non-stop. With all the stories being reported, there is a new story out there that people who love animals need to know about.
In the beginning of February, the United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government agency that oversees enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) removed inspection reports and other information from its website that had been available for over a decade. The information detailed the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities. Privacy issues is what the USDA cited in court rulings for deleting this information. The only way that people will now be able to see the documents, which also included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would be via Freedom of Information Act requests.
The records were invaluable to animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation at circuses, labs and zoos. Not only does this effect animal welfare advocates, but the public and pet stores, who could use the department’s 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. The USDA may continue to do inspections, but without new information available, the public cannot easily view the findings.
Recently there has been strong public up cry to publish this information. A group of 101 U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the president asking the USDA department to restore the online database. Another 18 Senators sent a letter of protest to the USDA, and a lawsuit was filed by various animal welfare organizations. And of course, social media is making an impact. Because of all the opposition, the USDA did finally restore some of the publications that were removed. But only a small number have been posted, and no reports from regular inspections of animal-holding facilities that are monitored under the AWA, including puppy mills and zoos.
This is a step in the right direction, but more still needs to be done to ensure that organizations that work for animal rights have access to important data.