For animal lovers, it's heartening that a lot of legal progress has been made to ensure our furry friends' safety.
After the Animal Welfare Act was passed, we experienced a new level of transparency regarding animal abuse in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regularly posted inspection reports from zoos, breeders, factory farms, and laboratories on their website. This allowed both citizens and journalists to track violations and avoid supporting those who abuse animals.
But since the administration changeover, the USDA website was scrubbed of all these documents. Here's why that's a big deal for anyone who loves their pets and wants accountability for criminals charged with animal abuse.
Journalists and animal welfare organizations relied on the information made public by the USDA in order to document crimes as per the Animal Welfare Act. Without this information, it could take years to find out about a specific location's abuse, and by then, it may be too late.
The USDA site used to help identify, for example, roadside zoos where violations were occurring. Investigations have exposed illegal importation of animals, poor sanitation, inadequate shelter, feces-ridden food, pens too small for movement, and premature death at these places.
One roadside zoo called DEW Haven was scheduled to have a reality show on Animal Planet until the USDA's documents exposed the abuse happening there. DEW Haven is still open, and now, there will be no way to keep track of what they're doing.
The USDA even posted documents that revealed abuse in their own departments. A journalist named Michael Moss found that they were performing experiments that were more harmful than those they had punished others for performing, and his writing helped end abusive practices at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.
Moss believes that the removal of the USDA's document database “is a significant blow not only to the public's ability to get information about the treatment of animals but also the agency's ability to convey the important work that it does.”
USDA documents also noted the elephant abuse at the Ringling Bros.' Circus. Their availability led to the circus's decision to stop using elephants altogether, and in May 2017, Ringling Bros. will shut down completely.
The uses of the documents didn't stop there. For people looking for ethical puppy breeders, they were crucial. Now, in the states where buying puppies from irresponsible breeders is illegal, people won't have reports to look to -- they'll be left to guess about their prospective breeders.
Even food safety regulations that prevented poison from entering dog food will be affected by a new government stance on animal welfare. Learn more in the video below.
Trump just opened the door to torture and abuse of dogs and cats - and to poisoned food for YOUR pet pic.twitter.com/NDFtpU7WjA— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) February 10, 2017
People can make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to discover information about animal rights violations, but this potentially expensive process can take months or years. And because so much has been removed from government websites, the FOIA office is even more backed up than usual.
Unfortunately, the availability of the USDA documents is at the discretion of the administration. If you want this crucial information to be public again, put pressure on your senators and representatives to introduce bills requiring transparency.
(via National Geographic)