The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency of the USDA, will no longer post public information on animal abuse. Previously, under the Horse Protection Act and Animal Welfare Act, APHIS posted reports of abuse including abuse by dog breeders, research facilities, circuses and zoos. The reports were helpful to animal welfare groups. The reason given is to protect the privacy of individuals. Information about animal abuse will now be available only through FOIA requests which are costly.
APHIS says it had been considering this policy change during the past year. Critics of the decision point out that the reports almost never included personal information. Of the 7,813 facilities reported on by law, 1,200 are academic or government research labs.
APHIS, during the past year, has conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the general public to view. 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. APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the Animal Welfare Act, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.
Those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence, lists of regulated entities, and enforcement related matters may submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for that information.
The reports apply to 7813 facilities that keep animals covered by the law. Roughly 1200 of these are research labs, which are often housed at major academic centers or run by government agencies themselves, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the Humane Society points out, this change benefits no one but animal abusers.