Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) overnight purged thousands of inspection reports from public visibility on their website. Instead, interested parties would need to file a freedom of information act request, which would take weeks, months or years to receive.
New Jersey’s legislature, which passed a law last year to restrict sales of puppies from breeders with USDA violations, unanimously condemned the action and noted that the federal agency had rendered its state law instantly useless. In Illinois, if a law were to passed preventing a ban on pet store sales of dogs and cats, in this awful proposed law, it states pet stores can’t sell from breeders with violations. Well, how would you know there any violations? Maybe the point is for us not to know?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, yesterday, the USDA budged a little. The agency said it would repost some annual reports and inspection data on animal research facilities, as it is required to do pursuant to a settlement The HSUS reached with the USDA in 2009.
The USDA change of policy, removing thousands of reports overnight, occurred under the Trump administration, that’s a fac. When I said so I was attacked for beating up on President Trump. The critics said I was just being “Anti Trump.” These people pointed to a few media reporters that indicated the order was from the Obama administration. While that appears not to be true, and that it was Trump’s administration’s decision – I don’t really care. I don’t care if this order came from President Truman – it’s wrong.
A part of the USDA mission is to protect against soring horse or puppy mills (a job I suggest they currently don’t do very well anyway). This policy change is clearly contrary to what the USDA’s purpose is, and also – don’t taxpayers have a right to know?
I quickly picked up on the USDA change of policy, and one by one media began to report this change, though due to other news it didn’t receive the play it might have.
Good for the HSUS. Will it take another lawsuit to get thousands of additional reports back on to the website? What I don’t honestly know is if you or I walked into Federal or local USDA offices whether inspection reports and public records would be made immediately available without filing for a freedom of information act request. I sense, no. While it’s truly wonderful that our government allows such requests to be made, it seems to be that if you are a taxpayer you have the inherent right to read reports and immediately, not waiting months or years, Also, if you (or a group) requested an inspection of a suspected puppy mill, don’t you have the right to know the results in real time?
So why is the USDA doing this? It’s certainly not so save taxpayer money. Responding to freedom of information act requests is laborious. The USDA maintains this move offers more transparency. And also protects privacy concerns of those being inspected. Do I even need to argue these claims? I’m sure I do not. That’s how ridiculous they are.
The trickle of reports to be made available is a start – but we should not settle or be grateful for that. Two issues as I see it:
First, as mentioned, the USDA’s job is to protect welfare of animals under their jurisdiction, and their treatment – from roadside circuses (which shouldn’t exist in the first place) or wild horse management to puppy mills.
Second, we have the right to know. I’m in no way understanding why preventing a guilty party (if there are violations) is a violation of their rights.
I’m no attorney, but it seems obvious that this withholding of public information is wrong. It’s a shame the HSUS, ASPCA or some organization would have to spend the dollars to go to court, and while animals lose.