It is especially important that the public have access to this information now because the administration itself has all but stopped enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, allowing facilities to neglect and mistreat their animals with little to no consequences. Photo by Michelle Riley/The HSUS

The House appropriations committee has just issued a clear directive to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reinstate full public access to animal welfare inspection reports and other records that show how businesses like roadside zoos and puppy mills, and research facilities that do invasive research, are treating the animals in their care. It also directs the agency to restore access to enforcement records of horse shows in which Tennessee walking horses and related breeds compete. The directive, part of the FY 2020 agriculture spending bill approved today by the committee, comes on the heels of a federal court ruling last night that also ordered the USDA to release information regarding violations of the AWA at licensed facilities.

The Humane Society of the United States has been fighting for this outcome with all available means since the USDA suddenly and without explanation removed the records from its website in February 2017. The blackout left groups like ours and the public in the dark on important animal welfare information that reveals what really goes on behind the scenes at the thousands of entities regulated by the USDA. The records also give critical insight into how—and if—the agency is properly implementing the Animal Welfare Act, the law that regulates the treatment of animals used by thousands of businesses and facilities, and the Horse Protection Act, the law that prohibits the cruel practice of “soring” in the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.

It is especially important that the public have access to this information now because the administration itself has all but stopped enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, allowing facilities to neglect and mistreat their animals with little to no consequences.

Last year, following the blackout, we submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act for information on certain facilities with prior records of animal mistreatment and neglect. Among other requests, we asked for inspection records of Natural Bridge Zoo, a facility where the HSUS had conducted an undercover investigation in 2014. Our investigation revealed conditions that includ …

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