The Department of Agriculture has started to repost some animal welfare data previously deleted from its website, after two weeks of public outcry over the removal.
On Feb. 3, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service deleted thousands ofpreviously publicly searchable records from its website, including inspection records for places like zoos, research laboratories, commercial breeders and circuses. They cited privacy concerns as the reason, though they clarified several days later that the decision was not final.
The data was a crucial resource for journalists and animal advocacy groups in uncovering animal cruelty, and the decision sparked immediate backlash. The Humane Society of the United Statesthreatened legal action if the data was not reinstated, a Harvard animal law expert filed a joint lawsuit with several animal rights groups, 18 senators and 101 U.S. representatives condemned the decision in open letters, and everyday animal lovers tweeted photos of their pets in a social media campaign against the decision.
On Friday, USDA APHIS restored some records to the site. Specifically, they posted what they referred to as the first batch of annual reports and inspection records from USDA-registered research facilities. Their statement also said they would continue to review records and determine which information is appropriate for reposting.
The Humane Society of the United States called the portion of restored records a step in the right direction, but continues to demand the agency bring back the data in full. The records still missing include additional materials and inspection reports for many research laboratories that use animals, puppy mills, zoos, horse soring scofflaws, and others whose activities are the subject of enforcement records related to the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, according to an HSUS statement.
Rep.Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, similarly called on the USDA to bring back their whole database.
While Im glad USDA is starting the process of restoring some information online, there is no excuse for the agencys abrupt actions to reduce transparency and prevent Americans from knowing about animal abuse, he said in a statement. I call on the agency to do the right thing and restore the remaining information so that animal abusers are held accountable for their actions.
Fellow co-chair Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), however, had harsher words.
Theres no reason to hold back this vita information, he said in statement. This website protects animals and the database should be fully restored. At the end of the day, putting a few documents back online is not good enough.