US Government Removes Information Detailing Puppy Mill Abusers

The crucial animal welfare reports which detail infractions in puppy mills have been removed from the internet.

Credit: Vimeo/CAPS

Crucial information has gone missing that was an aid to?the?ongoing and tremendous fight to save the helpless animals imprisoned in?puppy mills. Puppy mills have?received a lot of media coverage lately after people were shocked to discover that many pet stores got their puppies from puppy mill establishments that breed puppies on an intensive basis, and often in conditions regarded as inhumane.?Crucial online information?relating to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) has suddenly?disappeared from a government site, according to a report by?The Dodo. This means that inspection reports from the government agency that oversees enforcing the AWA,?the?U.S. Department of Agriculture?(USDA), are no longer available to the public.

The numerous activists?fighting against the terrible treatment of puppies and dogs in puppy mills are worried about the implications of the removal of the online documents. The reports detailed infractions against animal welfare in many facilities, including puppy mills, zoos, and circuses, and were previously?available for over a decade. Despite the latest discovery of the sudden removal of information, New Jersey have already taken action, claiming?in an interview with?the Dodo that they “will counter the USDA info blackout by prohibiting any pet store from sourcing a pet unless the breeder waives its ‘so-called’ right of privacy and has its inspection reports on the USDA website”, according to?New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak, who has been?working to crack down on inhumane puppy mills?supplying dogs to New Jersey pet shops.

Credit: Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS)

Despite the USDA continuing its inspections of countrywide facilities, some people are worried that the removal of the information will mean that the public may never know?what inspectors find, which includes the terrible conditions that many puppies come from, as pet stores may no longer be required to provide inspection reports to the people who buy their puppies.?Deborah Howard, president of?Companion Animal Protection Society?(CAPS), told The Dodo,?”We use the USDA reports to show which pet shops are using puppy mills.?They put the reports online under Obama and it’s been very useful for everybody. We compare our findings to the inspectors. If we didn’t have those reports, we wouldn’t be able to do our inspections.”

Since the online information blackout, people who want to find out information about large puppy breeders, as well as the facilities that use them, will have to go through a lengthy process by issuing a request?through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Howard claimed that when she had done this herself in the past, it sometimes took a year and a half to get the documents that she had requested, or at times it had even taken so long that she had eventually had to give up.?Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist for legislative and public affairs at USDA-APHIS, told The Dodo?on Friday,?”All information was removed today. This includes inspection reports for breeders, exhibitors, and research facilities.”

Despite?claims?that very little information about individuals was ever disclosed on the reports, the announcement on the USDA page stated that the decision was “based on our commitment to being transparent ? and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals.” Many?animal welfare advocates?are shocked that this topic has now been turned into a politicized issue.?John Goodwin, senior director for the?Humane Society of the U.S.’s Stop Puppy Mills campaign, told The Dodo,?”This action serves only to protect the puppy millers who get caught abusing or neglecting animals. Just in the past year these inspection reports have exposed puppy millers who threatened to physically harm inspectors, allowed dogs to suffer from painful and untreated injuries and in one case even shot a dog in the head.?The USDA should work to stop this cruelty instead of covering it up.”?Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations for the ASPCA, agreed and told The Dodo in a statement,?”This appears to be a situation of agency capture with the USDA cowering to special interests to the detriment of transparency and animal welfare.?This is public information and subject to FOIA, so it’s dumbfounding that the USDA would take action to make this information more difficult to access. We are deeply concerned this is an effort to protect those who are doing harm to animals.”

To take action against this?blackout, you can file a?request for information through FOIA?and to ask?for?this information to be made easily available again,?you can sign this petition.

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