The USDA is under fire again for its handling of commercial dog breeders—but this time, from Congress.
In May 2010, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a scathing report detailing failure on the part of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to properly enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) standards for commercial and internet dog sellers. The agency is responsible for enforcing the minimal standards set out by the AWA for animals bred in commercial facilities in the U.S., including puppy mills.
Following the release of the 2010 audit, APHIS committed to changes in enforcement practices to address the allegations. However, in the seven years since the report was filed, evidence has called into question APHIS’s adherence to the audit’s recommendations, including the agency’s failure to proactively share information about possible cruelty violations with state authorities or take timely action against unscrupulous breeders.
Now Congress is demanding answers. On December 11, Congressmen Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) issued a joint, bipartisan letter calling on the Inspector General to request a new report on APHIS’s progress since the 2010 audit as well as address new concerns. You can read the full letter here.
The audit is particularly important in light of the USDA’s removal of previously available AWA enforcement and inspection documents from its website, as well as the removal of breeders’ names and other identifying information from these public records. Not only does this mean the public, states and pet stores can no longer identify problematic dog breeders and whether enforcement has been pursued against them for cruelty violations, but it essentially eliminates APHIS’s accountability to the public to take action against bad breeders at all.
The ASPCA has long believed that there is a serious need for an updated audit to understand the impact of the agency’s actions on the welfare of the animals it is charged with protecting, and we commend Reps. Pocan and Fitzpatrick for standing up for animals and the American public.
“Protecting vulnerable animals in commercial facilities is the USDA’s job, and it’s one they’re failing,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. “This audit is necessary to ensure critical transparency and decisive action on behalf of animals in need and an American public that expects government agencies to meet their obligations.”
If you haven’t yet, please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade today to stay up to date as this issue progresses and be alerted when puppy mill dogs need your help.