Sen. Schumer Joins ASPCA in Urging USDA to Restore Public Access to Animal Welfare Data
New survey shows Americans overwhelmingly believe USDA should restore animal welfare database
March 29, 2017
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was joined by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City today to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to restore public access to the animal inspection reports and enforcement actions that the agency abruptly removed from its website on February 3rd.
Sen. Schumer spoke with Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO, in a Facebook Live segment, where the ASPCA unveiled the results of a new national survey that shows an overwhelming majority (92 percent) of Americans believe information about the treatment of animals in federally regulated facilities should be made available to the public.
Conducted by Opinion Research Corporation and commissioned by the ASPCA, the survey also shows that 89 percent of respondents believe the USDA should restore public access to the information that was removed from its website related to the regulation of facilities licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including commercial dog breeders, zoos and research labs–information that is critical to the ASPCA's efforts to monitor puppy mills and advocate for increased protections for animals.
There has been massive public outcry since the USDA removed this information from its website in early February, and the ASPCA has collected over 120,000 signatures on its petition demanding the USDA restore the animal welfare reports. In recent weeks, the USDA has reposted select documents to its public website, but has given no indication as to when puppy mill inspection reports will be restored.
"With the removal of huge volumes of animal welfare information from its website, the USDA has chosen to protect those who profit from animal suffering over the animals themselves," said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO. "This enormous public response demonstrates the level and intensity of public concern about the humane treatment of animals, and we thank Senator Schumer for his commitment to government transparency and efforts to protect the hundreds of thousands of animals behind the walls of AWA-regulated facilities."
"Sunlight is the best disinfectant and that's why public access to information about any inhumane treatment of animals at puppy mills, research labs and more is paramount to prevention," said U.S. Sen. Schumer. "The USDA's decision to sweep this information under the rug and suspend its longstanding tradition of transparency means animal abuse could go unnoticed and that's why I'm joining the ASPCA in its public push to make the USDA reverse its decision and continue to post animal welfare records online."
The ASPCA has used the USDA's inspection reports for years to monitor the commercial dog breeding industry, as well as the USDA's enforcement of AWA violations. In addition to educating the public on the inhumane conditions commonly found at USDA-licensed breeders, the reports are a valuable tool in passing laws to better protect breeding dogs. A recent trend in state legislation has been to enact laws that rely on AWA violations to weed out "bad actors" by restricting pet stores from sourcing their dogs from facilities with serious, documented violations. Preventing consumers, pet stores and the public from accessing this information makes it nearly impossible to comply with these laws and ensure they are being enforced.
To raise awareness of the cruel conditions found in puppy mills, the ASPCA has a tool on its "No Pet Store Puppies" website that links pet stores with the USDA-licensed commercial dog breeders that supply them with puppies. The database features over 21,000 photos taken during routine USDA inspections, allowing the public to see first-hand where pet store puppies really come from.
For more information about the ASPCA and to join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit http://www.aspca.org.