February 13, 2017

Wyden, Senators Demand Trump Administration Restores Transparency for USDA Records on Animal Cruelty, Puppy Mills

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and 17 of his Democratic Senate colleagues today called on the Trump Administration to immediately restore information on animal cruelty recently purged from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website. 

In order to create greater transparency, accountability and enforcement of animal cruelty laws, APHIS makes available to the public inspection reports for all regulated entities and annual reports submitted by research laboratories. But earlier this month, the part of the website that is dedicated to identifying animal cruelty violations was taken down.

“Animal lovers and all Americans deserve access to public information about animal research labs and puppy mill operators – those facts are critical to stopping inhumane treatment of animals,” Wyden said. “I am working on ways to ensure the Department of Agriculture reinstates its longstanding practice of transparency that lets Americans make informed decisions about the products they buy and who they can trust when it comes to protecting animals.”

Seven states prohibit the purchase of animals from commercial breeders and so-called “puppy mills” that have violated the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) or the Horse Protection Act (HPA.)  To enforce the law in these states, law enforcement relies on information that, until February 3, had been readily available on the APHIS website.

“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.  Public access to information can guide consumer decision making and plays an important role in deterring regulated entities from violating the law,” wrote the Senators in a letter to USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young. 

“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 senators also wrote. “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.”

Joining Wyden on the letter are: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Martin Heinrich , D-N.M., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Bernie Sanders, D-Vt.

Find the full text of the letter here.