Senators Urge U.S. Department of Agriculture to Restore Animal Cruelty Records on Its Website

Feb 15, 2017
Courtesy of: The Office of Sen. Menendez U.S. Senator Bob Menendez calms Wednesday, a six-week-old rescued kitten at the Bergen County Animal Shelter.

In the fight against animal abuse, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and a group of nearly 20 other Democratic senators are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reinstate vital animal cruelty records to its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website. The information related to management and enforcement of the Animal Welfare and Horse Protection acts, including inspection reports for all regulated entities and yearly reports presented by research laboratories, was recently deleted from the USDA’s website, though it had been available to the public for many years.

“The public has a right to know if regulated entities have subjected animals in their care to abuse or otherwise failed to meet basic welfare standards,” a letter from the senators to Michael Young, USDA acting deputy secretary, stated. “Public access to information can guide consumer decision making and plays an important role in deterring regulated entities from violating the law.”

The senators are demanding to know why the information has been removed and who specifically is responsible for the decision.

The AWA and HPA were passed decades ago by Congress, which has appropriated tens of millions of dollars to the USDA for enforcement of these laws. According to the senators, the USDA inspects nearly 9,000 licensed facilities, from commercial dog and cat breeding facilities, laboratories and zoos to circuses, airlines, Tennessee walking horse shows and other operations.

New Jersey and six other states that outlaw the purchase of animals from commercial breeders and puppy mills cited for violations rely on data that was obtainable through the APHIS website to enforce these laws, the senators noted.

“Lack of access to AWA and HPA documents not only undermines the effectiveness of these federal laws, but also interferes with state and local laws meant to protect animals and consumers,” the letter states. “Without ready access to inspection reports, dog sellers in those states will have no practical way to comply with these laws, and state and local law enforcement efforts will be severely impeded.”

Without public access to this information, families will have a tough time figuring out whether or not their dog came from a puppy mill with a history of AWA violations, horse show spectators will no longer be able to find out if a horse trainer has a history of HPA violations, and consumers will not know for sure if the cosmetics they buy come from an AWA-compliant company, the senators noted. Additionally, they, said, science labs, circuses, aquariums, zoos and other commercial animal establishments will not be compelled to fully comply with the AWA since their violations will no longer be publicly accessible. —K.A.E.

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