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Urgent Need to Return USDA Records to the Public Eye

Urgent Need to Return USDA Records to the Public Eye

Name: Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act

Bill Number: S 503/HR 1368

The Animal Welfare Accountability and Transparency Act would mandate the return of all regulatory records under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act in a user-friendly searchable database. This is the only way to return transparency and public trust on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct their business.

In early 2017, APHIS abruptly removed its searchable database containing information on licensees and licensee records from the public eye. These records included inspection reports and enforcement actions taken by APHIS. Since then, efforts to obtain information, through use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, have been frustrated by the length of time the agency takes to respond and even more by the large amount of basic information redacted—removed—from the response.

NAVS last request resulted in a response a full year later with all information that would identify a specific licensee and their compliance record redacted. Furthermore, in a recent case challenging a denial of information through FOIA requests on details of transfers of nonhuman primates a federal appeals court gave a huge amount of deference to claims by importers that information sought by animal activists would jeopardize the business interest.

Progress on this legislation has stalled and this session of Congress will be over at the end of the year. Please ask your elected officials to become sponsors of this bill and help move it forward now.

 

Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative and ask them to become sponsors and move this legislation forward.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.

 

Recipients

  • Your Senators
  • Your Representative

Contact

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Message

Loss of Accountability and Transparency for USDA Records Needs to End

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask you to become a sponsor of 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.

In early 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) unilaterally removed public records from their website. These records are essential tools for providing transparency and accountability to stakeholders.

While APHIS claims that the information is available by filing individual Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, the truth is that after such requests can go unanswered for a year or more, and once the requests are fulfilled, they contain returned records that 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. Add your name to the list of co-sponsors and demand that this legislation move forward before the end of the legislative session.

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