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For animal welfare advocates and the public, it is now far more challenging to know whether animals are being properly cared for in research labs, puppy mills, zoos, circuses, aquariums and Tennessee walking horse shows.
On February 3, in a move that undermines governmental transparency, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) abruptly purged its website of documents and records about the approximately 9000 animal-related facilities inspected by the agency and covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.
"What the USDA has done is given cover to people who neglect or harm animals and get cited by USDA inspectors," said John Goodwin, who runs the Stop Puppy Mills Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States. "The public is no longer going to be able to quickly learn which commercial dog breeders, horse trainers, which roadside zoos, which research labs have horrible animal welfare track records."
Animals held in research facilities and puppy mills are not accessible to the public and these USDA records are essential for efforts to ensure that these dogs, monkeys, and rabbits are receiving basic care. These documents are the product of taxpayer dollars and there is no reason the agency should not post these regularly requested public records online. We have a right to see them without unnecessary and time-consuming bureaucratic delays.
For the sake of countless innocent creatures, we must raise our voices loud and clear to put pressure on the USDA now. Sign this urgent petition today! Demand that the USDA stop covering for abusers and make records of animal welfare violations publicly accessible on its website again.