Name: Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act
Bill Number: S 503/HR 1368
More than a 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). Since
then, 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 it takes to receive responses (almost a year to respond to one
request from NAVS). Even more outrageous is the amount of basic information
that APHIS has redacted from a request for information on inspection
reports, including the names and locations of the licensees.
The Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act would
mandate the return of all regulatory records under the AWA and the HPA in a
user-friendly searchable database. This is the only way to return transparency
and public trust to the manner in which APHIS conducts business and to ensure
any degree of compliance by licensees of these federal laws.
Progress on this legislation has completely stalled;
meanwhile, information on the APHIS site becomes more difficult than ever to
access and use. Their latest decision—to redact all information that would
identify a specific licensee and their compliance record—is the last straw in
this violation of citizens’ rights.
Please demand that Congress act on this issue now.
Call to Actions:
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Conduct Hearings on Loss of Accountability and Transparency for USDA Records
Dear [Decision Maker],
I am writing to asking that you demand that public hearings are held on the Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act, S 503/HR 1368. This legislation is the only recourse that the public has for obtaining information on licensees under the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act, and for learning whether licensees are complying with those laws. 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. Moreover, APHIS is now redacting even the most basic information on its licensees, including their names, addresses and whether they are compliant with or in violation of these laws. This legislation would require the USDA to restore a database of searchable publicly-available records under the AWA and the HPA. These 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 APHIS claims that the information is available by filing individual Freedom of Information Act requests, the truth is that after nearly a year of waiting, the returned records have been so completely redacted as to make the response meaningless.An efficient online search tool is the only solution to this excessive backlog of information, and the only efficient method of providing actual information to the public.Help restore accessibility and transparency to records that should, by law, be available to the public. Please urge the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and the Senate Finance Committee to hold hearings on this legislation before another year passes.
Sincerely,[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]