WASHINGTON (AP) – The Agriculture Department says “adjustments may be made” in its decision to remove animal welfare inspection reports, enforcement records and other information about the treatment of animals from its website.
The information includes lists of animal welfare violations at commercial dog and horse breeding facilities and animal testing labs. It was removed from the department’s website Friday morning.
A spokeswoman for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Tuesday that the agency is trying to balance the need for transparency with rules protecting individual privacy rights. She said the decision is not final.
Animal rights activists are monitoring the situation. Animal Charity Board President Mary Louk said the initial decision came as a shock.
The reports and records were available to the public and often used by animal welfare advocates.
“The government’s claim that it was a privacy issue, but a lot of those reports were pretty heavily redacted to begin with,” Louk said. “For us it means that if someone places a report and says they have purchased puppies from that what we believe is a puppy mill we aren’t going to be able to go out and search and neither is any humane society across the whole county.”
The USDA said the information will still be available but anyone interested will have to submit a freedom of information act request. Louk said those requests can take a long time, sometimes up to years and by the time they get it the information may be outdated.
“We would like it to be easier to get this information. We would like to see more inspections. We would like to see more information provided to the public,” Louk said.