The USDA removed public documents about animal abuse from its website on Friday afternoon.
The USDA and APHIS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, has made investigations into animal cruelty cases in zoos, laboratories, and breeders of all kinds of animals available to the public for the past decade. But due to privacy issues, these investigations will no longer be available. This past Friday at 11 a.m., according to Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, these public records were removed from the USDA website.
The reasons for removal of these investigations are due to "personal information from documents it posts on APHIS' website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act."
These investigations were made public in order for journalists to further investigate inspection reports and for advocacy groups to ensure that facilities were complying with animal welfare regulations. APHIS supplied lists of horse industry organizations which inspected horses to ensure their handlers were aligning with the Horse Protection Act as well. All of these resources have since been removed from the website.
Now any member of the public must incite the Freedom of Information Act and put in a request to obtain "inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement records."
"What the USDA has done is given cover to people who neglect or harm animals and get cited by USDA inspectors," John Goodwin, who runs the Stop Puppy Mills Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States, told ABC News.
"The public is no longer going to know which commercial dog breeders, horse trainers, which zoos, which research labs have horrible animal welfare track records."
To read the entire message on the APHIS website, click here.
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