Congress Calls For Restoration of Public Animal Welfare Records
WASHINGTON, February 16, 2017—A group of Democratic U.S. Senators and a separate, bi-partisan group of Representatives have sent the Trump administration letters urging the restoration of public animal welfare records scrubbed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website on February 3.
A group of 18 Democratic Senators signed on to a letter on Monday asking Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Young to “immediately” restore the records to the USDA website.
“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,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “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.”
On Tuesday, 101 House members, including 10 Republicans, addressed a letter to Donald Trump with a similar request. The effort in the House was led by a Republican, Arizona Representative Martha McSally.
“We should be increasing government transparency, not diminishing it and shielding those cited for violations of these key animal welfare laws,” wrote the lawmakers. “We hope you will immediately restore what was removed from USDA’s website regarding the AWA and HPA, and resume posting inspection reports, annual reports, and other animal welfare related documents so that the public can access them in an efficient and timely way.”
Congress is not alone in fighting to bring back public animal welfare records. On Monday, PETA, joined by five other animal rights organizations, filed suit in U.S. District Court in D.C.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also sent the U.S. Department of Justice a letter stating that removing certain records from the public website runs afoul of a 2009 settlement with HSUS.
In response, USDA spokesperson Tanya C. Espinosa stated that the agency had been in the process of removal before the Trump took office, and that the records had been removed out of “an abundance of caution” stemming from pending litigation concerning privacy.
“These decisions are not final,” the statement reads. “Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”
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