The Trump Administration Is Making It Easier for Puppy Mills to Hide Animal Abuse
On day one of Donald Trump’s presidency, just hours after his inauguration, the Trump administration quietly removed any digital record of the White House’s commitment to protecting LGBTQ rights and promoting the Climate Action Plan. Just weeks later this discreet removal of policies targeted at protection and regulation continues: This time they’re relaxing protections that keep pets from suffering in inhumane puppy mills.
As of February 3, a portion of the United States Department of Agriculture’s website that provided information about animal abuse was removed without any prior warning or acknowledgement. For over a decade this section identified zoos, dog breeders, horse breeders, and research labs that violated the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. As Mother Jones reported, all of this information was available for public viewing and was used not only by journalists and animal rights activists but by private citizens.
Now, however, this once-public information can be obtained only by filing a Freedom of Information Act request—a process that can take months or even years to be completed. By removing this section of the site, individuals and organizations are now unable to directly access information about breeders, zoos, and researchers that mistreat animals. This poses major challenges for animal-welfare groups, like the Humane Society, and pet-store owners in states like Arizona, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and Virginia, where it is illegal to sell puppies unless they comes from a reputable breeder. Because of the recent actions, they will no longer be able to use the USDA’s site to easily identify puppy-mill owners that breed large numbers of dogs in squalid, cruel conditions.
“Here we have a government action that benefits no one except people who are caught abusing animals and don’t want the public to know,” John Goodwin, the senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mill campaign, told Mother Jones.
In a statement posted last week, the USDA said they began reviewing and reconsidering the public availability of this information over a year ago, and the department further clarified that their decision comes from their commitment to “maintaining the privacy rights of individuals with whom we come into contact.” Despite suggestion that the timeline to review the information and the decision to remove it was floated around under President Obama, a former USDA spokesperson said on Sunday that previous administration had no part in last Friday’s removal of the public records.
— Matt Herrick (@mattmherrick) February 5, 2017
Whether or not this removal of information will be permanent remains to be seen. In the meantime the Humane Society has already filed legal action against the USDA, stating that the decision “flies in the face of sound public policy by undermining governmental transparency and undercutting efforts to enforce the Animal Welfare Act.”