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One Year Later: Lack of Access to USDA Records on Animal Use Escalates

One Year Later: Lack of Access to USDA Records on Animal Use Escalates

Name: Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act

Bill Number: S 503/HR 1368

One year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) abruptly removed its searchable database containing information on licensees and licensee records required by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act (HPA). These records included inspection reports and enforcement actions taken by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This legislation would mandate the return of all regulatory records under the AWA and the HPA in a user-friendly searchable database.

Efforts to obtain information through the use of specific Freedom of Information Act requests, as suggested by APHIS, have been frustrating because of the time involved in requesting specific information on the use of animals for multiple institutions and because of the length of time it takes to receive responses (in excess of six months for each request, in many cases).

This lack of transparency not only violates the public trust, but also blocks the progress of animal advocacy groups, like NAVS, that need this information to move forward on many projects and campaigns.

Progress on this legislation has been non-existent, while the information on the APHIS site has become more difficult than ever to access and use.

Please demand that this issue be reviewed by Congress through public hearings in the committees to which the legislation was assigned.

 

Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact your U.S. Senate and U.S. House Committees and urge them to conduct hearings on this important legislation.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.

 

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Conduct Hearings on Loss of Accountability and Transparency for USDA Records

Dear [Decision Maker],

As you are a member of a committee charged with the review of the Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act, (S 503/HR 1368), I am asking that you request a public hearing be held on this bill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service unilaterally removed public records from their website last year. These records are important to the operation of businesses and provide transparency and accountability to stakeholders.

This legislation would require the USDA to restore a database of searchable publicly-available records under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. The public records--including annual reports, inspection reports and any enforcement action taken--should not be removed due to privacy concerns because they relate to businesses operating under federal licenses.

While some AWA and HPA records have been restored to the USDA's website, these records are difficult to search, and the excessive redacted information makes identifying violators of the AWA unidentifiable. In order to obtain more detailed information, individuals and organizations must submit Freedom of Information Act requests, which results in increased costs to the government in fulfilling these requests.

There is an enormous backlog of FOIA requests waiting to be processed. While the number of requests has more than doubled in the past three years, the number still pending at the end of the fiscal year has tripled. The average time to receive a response is now between four and nine months. An efficient online search tool is a faster and more efficient method of providing this information to the public.

Please urge that hearings commence on this issue before another year passes in order to restore accessibility and transparency to records that should, by law, be available to the public.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]