The U.S. Department of Agriculture removed animal welfare documents including inspection reports and enforcement records suddenly on Friday.
The agency cites privacy laws. Many animal welfare proponents are concerned with how the lack of transparency will affect animals, including horses.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said in a statement that it conducted a “comprehensive review” of the information posted for the public to view. The government group decided to remove inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication.
APHIS added it will review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA. The agency does not cite any specific legal case or change in the law for the changes.
APHIS shared the list of people licensed under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) for the last decade. It allowed the public to inspect information regarding dog breeders’ inspection reports.
More recently, the website listed those licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations (HIOs) to inspect walking horses. Doing so helped ensure compliance with the Horse Protection Act (HPA).
APHIS posted regulatory correspondence and enforcement actions, including horse soring violations.
Those seeking comprehensive animal welfare information regarding specific incidents or individuals should submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The timeframe for receiving a response varies.