For journalists, animal welfare activists and all Americans, accessing information that can help protect animals just got a lot harder.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website that keeps tabs on the treatment of animals at research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said court rulings and privacy laws were responsible for the decision, though many suspect President Trump or members of his transition team are behind it.
APHIS said the removed documents, which included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Those can take up to a year or more to be approved.
The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, research laboratories, zoos and puppy mills.
“The USDA action cloaks even the worst puppy mills in secrecy and allows abusers of Tennessee walking horses, zoo animals and lab animals to hide even the worst track records in animal welfare,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign.
“This move makes it IMPOSSIBLE to find out where animals are located, their treatment and any violations, essentially giving carte blanche to anyone to hide animal violations, and violate animal welfare laws, among other things,” the Beagle Freedom Project said in a statement on Facebook.
The lack of immediately accessible inspection reports is expected to cause problems in seven states that currently require pet stores to source puppies from breeders with clean USDA inspection reports. No longer will they have a quick way to check on that.
In a statement, Kathy Guillermo, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called it “a shameful attempt to keep the public from knowing when and which laws and regulations have been violated. Many federally registered and licensed facilities have long histories of violations that have caused terrible suffering.”
Whether President Trump is directly responsible for the website purging isn’t clear, but one member of his USDA transition team, Brian Klippenstein, has a long history of fighting animal welfare organizations.
Klippenstein is executive director of Protect the Harvest, a group that, among other things, has opposed legislation to regulate puppy mills. The group was started by Forrest Lucas, an oil magnate, cattle rancher and arch nemesis of the Humane Society of the United States.
The change came two days after U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a California Republican, introduced a bill calling for more transparency and a reduction in testing on animals at government research labs.
The bill is backed by an advocacy group, the White Coat Waste Project, which has been using the USDA-APHIS database to gather much of its information on animal testing at hundreds of federal laboratories.
“There was already a troubling lack of transparency about what happens in government-funded labs,” said Justin Goodman, the group’s vice president for advocacy and policy. “This was a very important resource for us, and for every animal organization, in terms of tracking patterns of animal use and compliance, whether it’s in labs or other settings.”
The USDA web page where the information was located now brings up the announcement about its removal.
The Humane Society of the United States has threatened to sue the Agriculture Department if the decision to block Internet access to the database isn’t reversed.
“We intend to sue them unless they take remedial action here,” Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle told TIME. “The clock starts ticking immediately.”
Up until late last week, the site also allowed dog buyers to look up specific breeders by license number and see any possible violations under the breeder’s name before buying the animal.
“I’m very concerned that there will be no incentive for breeders or research labs or any of these facilities to comply because the public won’t know,” said Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of puppy mill initiatives for Best Friends Animal Society.
“It’s going to impact every species of animals,” she added. “There shouldn’t be any reason to hide inspection reports for a dog breeding facility or a research lab. There shouldn’t be any need to keep from the public how many animals you have [in] your facility or whether or not you’re complying with care standards. That alone is a big red flag for everybody.”
“The posting of these documents has been an invaluable tool in rooting out some of the worst abuses that are occurring,” HSUS CEO Pacelle said. “Essentially, this is now going to give a bit of a get-out-of-jail card to horse soring, puppy mills, delinquent roadside zoos and animals research labs that are flouting the law.”
The Humane Society says the Agriculture Department is required to make its inspection records at animal research facilities public under a court order.
HSUS sued the government in 2005 over public access to the reports and won a settlement in 2009 that directed the Agriculture Department to post certain data on its website related to research on animals. That information, the Humane Society said, was among the data that was just purged from government website.
The USDA did not comment on the Humane Society’s threat of legal action.
In a statement explaining the change late last week, APHIS cited a year-long “comprehensive review” of public information on its website.
“Based on our commitment to being transparent, remaining responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals, APHIS is implementing actions to remove documents it posts on APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act that contain personal information,” the statement said.
“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the statement added.
“In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.”
Criticism of the change has not been limited to animal welfare activists.
Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports laboratory use of research animals, said in a blog post:
“When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combating the public perception that they are not transparent.”
Posted by John Woestendiek February 8th, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: access, administration, agriculture department, animal welfare, animals, aphis, best friends, blocked, breeders, circus, compliance, database, dogs, federal, government, hsus, humane society of the united states, information, investigations, laboratories, monitoring, peta, pets, privacy, protecting, protection, puppy mills, purged, removed, research, searchable, team, transition, transparency, Trump, usda, web page, website, zoos
(Second of two parts)
Their eyes said yes, their feet said no.
All four of the dogs at the Watauga Humane Society — each being held in individual quarantined kennels after their trip from Korea — initially reacted the same when I stepped inside.
They’d take one step forward, their bright eyes shining with what seemed to be excitement, anticipation or maybe curiosity; then they’d take three steps back.
It was understandable. They’d come from a farm in South Korea — one of more than 1,000 such farms there where dogs are raised as livestock and sold as meat, where they’re often mistreated and neglected and have little human contact.
In the weeks since they were rescued from a farm in Jongju, quarantined and, along with 27 others, shipped to the U.S., the four dogs have grown a little more sociable by the day.
Yet clearly, they were still torn between the fear they had learned from experience and that innate something — call it resilience, goodness of spirit, or that seemingly limitless and often unexplainable love for our species — that all dogs are born with.
With dogs, that innate something, given a chance, almost always wins out.
That has been the case with rescued fighting dogs, puppy mill dogs, and those raised as meat. They’re willing, despite whatever mistreatment they endured at our hands, to give our species a second chance.
We sometimes return the favor.
Since the beginning of 2015, Humane Society International has worked with Korean animal activists to remove 525 dogs from Korean dog farms and ship them to the U.S. and Canada to find new homes as pets.
The organization works to persuade dog farmers to forfeit their canine livestock and move on to new careers, often providing financial incentives for them to do so.
The latest shipment was a smaller one — 31 dogs from Jonju, and they’ve been distributed among five different North Carolina humane societies and shelters that serve as emergency placement partners for HSI and HSUS.
All four of the dogs who came to Watauga Humane Society were Jindos, a breed known for their loyalty that originated on the island of Jindo, off the southern coast of South Korea.
The breed has been designated by the Korean government as a national treasure.
Yet they — especially the white and yellow ones — are commonly seen in cages at outdoor meat markets, waiting to be sold, slaughtered and butchered.
At the farms, the dogs spend most of their lives in cages, treated like livestock, at best — and sometimes worse than that.
How does a dog raised in those conditions go on to be a family pet?
In small and hesitant steps, not overnight, and not without some work and patience.
But the proven fact is, they do.
That has been the case with the the four previous batches of farm dogs who have been rescued from Korea and gone on to find adoptive homes in the U.S. and Canada.
“I can give you hundreds of stories of wonderful adoptions that have taken place with them,” said Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for HSI.
The four Korean dogs that came to the Watauga Humane Society had been there three days when I visited. In the quarantine area, I walked into each of their kennels and took a seat on the floor.
One sat in the outside section of his kennel and — no matter how much I gently coaxed — would take more than a step or two inside.
Another trembled in the corner, venturing a little closer after 10 minutes passed, but only close enough for a quick sniff.
One came within a few feet of me and retreated, before lingering long enough to allow herself to be petted.
The fourth would come close, then fall back, finally coming close enough to sniff my hand, and allow it to pet him. He decided he liked it.
“Every day gets a little better,” said the HSI’s O’Meara. “You’ll hear from the shelters, ‘He gets closer, he sniffed me today.’ It’s a big deal for a dog that wouldn’t come within five feet, and now its coming up and licking your hands.
“Some take months but they do get there and when they do, they’re wonderful companion dogs,” she added.
The four are expected to get out of quarantine next week. Then they’ll be taken to Asheville to be spayed and neutered. Depending on how the dogs react to that, the Watauga Humane Society could start taking applications from people interested in adopting them the last week in October.
Details will be announced on their Facebook page.
At the Cashiers Highlands Humane Society, applications are already being taken for the 11 Korean dogs they took in, though the dogs won’t be able to be taken home until after Nov. 7 when they are spayed or neutered.
Other dogs that were rescued from the farm in Jonju — an illegal one because the farmer didn’t own the land he was using — are at Paws of Bryson City, Moore Humane Society in Carthage, and Outer Banks SPCA in Manteo
Laurie Vierheller, executive director of the Watauga Humane Society, said helping the dogs find a home is rewarding in itself, but the benefits to a shelter go beyond that.
Taking in the dogs strikes a chord with the dog-loving community members whose contributions keep local humane societies afloat. It brings traffic to a shelter, and often those who come to see the dogs rescued in a high-profile case end up going home with one, or adopting another resident of the shelter.
The HSI’s O’Meara says some shelters and humane societies avoid getting involved as emergency placement partners because they want to focus on finding homes for local dogs in need.
But those who do take part, she said, have noted “a spike in adoptions, for all dogs, when they receive these dogs…One shelter, within two weeks of the dogs arriving, every dog in facility was adopted out.”
“It highlights the work they do in their communities. These homeless animals come with an incredible story. That brings in traffic, and brings in people who would provide wonderful homes.”
(Part one of this series can be found here)
(Photos: Jindol, at top, and the other Korean farm dogs soon to be available for adoption at the Watauga Humane Society; by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 13th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, adoption, animals, boone, dog, dog farms, dog meat trade, dogs, emergency placement partners, farm, farm dogs, free korea dogs, hsi, hsus, humane societies, humane society international, jindo, jindos, korea, korean, north carolina, pets, rehabilitation, rescue, rescued, resilience, shelters, socialization, watauga county, watauga humane society
The largest of the country’s three remaining Class B dog dealers — those often unscrupulous sorts who scrounge up dogs and sell them to laboratories for use in experiments — is going out of business.
The Humane Society of the United States reported yesterday that Ohio-based dealer Robert Perry has cancelled his license with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That means only two licensed “random source” dealers remain. Class B, or random source, dealers round up dogs from flea markets, shelters, auctions, Craigslist and other sources and sell them to research institutions.
“These merchants of cruelty are on their last gasps, and this announcement gets us one big step closer to the complete demise of this sordid trade,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, writes on the HSUS blog, A Humane Nation.
Perry has been supplying dogs for years to a number of institutions, including Ohio State University. Between October 2013 and October 2014, OSU purchased nearly 50 dogs from Perry, making him the biggest random source supplier of dogs used in research nationwide.
Of the two remaining Class B dealers, one had only four dogs in its most recent inventory and the other is facing formal enforcement action from the USDA, according to HSUS.
At one time there were more than 200 licensed Class B dealers in the United States. By 2013, as a result of a decline in the use of dogs in laboratories and opposition from groups like HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Animal Welfare Institute, that number was down to six
Last year’s announcement from the National Institutes of Health that it would no longer fund research that used random source dogs served as a final nail in the coffin for Class B dog dealing.
The NIH decision stemmed from a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences that found random source dealers could not guarantee that people’s pets would not end up in laboratories.
Those dogs who are bred for laboratory research — commonly beagles — weren’t directly affected by that decision, but, as Pacelle notes, they are being used less often by laboratories, too.
“The continuing and rapid decline of these random source Class B dealers means the chances of pets ending up in laboratories are now very low,” Pacelle said.” And we’re perhaps closer to the day when fewer dogs of any kind are used in testing and research.”
(Photo: A “random source” dog that was used in dental experiments at Georgia Regents University that were the subject of an HSUS investigation; courtesy of HSUS)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 7th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, class b, dealers, department of agriculture, dog, dog dealers, dogs, experiments, hsus, humane society of the united states, laboratory, license, pets, random source, research, supply, usda, wayne pacelle
Talk about your culture shock.
One week, this chow mix appeared destined to become somebody’s dinner. The next — after being rescued from a dog meat market in Yulin, China — he was mingling with celebrities and members of congress at a Humane Society of the United States’s (HSUS) gala in Washington, D.C.
Just two nights after arriving in the U.S., the dog, since named Scout, was the life of the party at a fundraiser that brought in more than $100,000 in pledges for Humane Society International (HSI) to open an office in Vietnam that will work to end the custom of eating dogs, according to HSUS Chief Program and Policy Officer Mike Markarian
The event was part of last week’s Taking Action for Animals conference.
Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China specialist, was in Yulin with other activists protesting a dog meat festival.
He came across Scout and another pup, sharing a small cage on the back of a motorcycle, and purchased them from a vendor, according to a Humane Society blog. Li kept one of the dogs and shipped the other to the U.S.
Days later, rather than being dinner, Scout attended one, where he was showered with attention, according to Animal Issues Reporter.
While the 12-week-old dog has landed in the lap of luxury, Scout will likely be earning his keep, becoming a poster boy in the campaign to end the consumption of dogs by some humans in some Asian countries
“I would really like to make sure he’s an ambassador to the community” said Leslie Barcus, HSI board member and executive director of VegFund, who adopted Scout. “We could use his help for educational purposes about the plight of street dogs and of dogs used as food — for human consumption –across Asia and other parts of the world. He’ll be in the community a lot, and he’ll be a friend of everybody.”
Posted by John Woestendiek July 4th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, asian, china, chow, consumption, culture, dog, dog meat, dogs, eating, food, fundraiser, hsus, humane society international, humane society of the united states, meat, meat market, party, pets, protest, rescued, scout, tradition, vietnam, washington, yulin
The Federal Trade Commission ruled last week that a “raccoon dog” is not a dog.
More commonly known as the “Asiatic Raccoon,” members of the fox-like species (Nyctereutes procyonoides) are raised and skinned by fur farmers in China, Finland and other countries.
The creature, native to East Asia, is technically a member of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, coyotes and the domestic dog.
But the FTC, in a 59-page ruling, rejected a bid from animal welfare advocates to have it renamed “Raccoon Dog,” a move aimed at slowing the importation and sales of its fur, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The fur ends up in clothing sold in the U.S., where the Humane Society of the United States has been waging a campaign for years to ban or relabel the product — under the thinking even a cold-hearted wearer of fur wouldn’t wear dog fur.
“To our knowledge, no single furbearing animal has ever before been so mistreated and completely misrepresented to the public,” the HSUS said in a statement in 2008: “Raccoon dogs are not raccoons (Procyon lotor) — they merely have facial markings that resemble raccoons.”
In an update of fur labeling rules, the Federal Trade Commission rejected that argument: “It has rings around its eyes and it climbs trees.” the document said. “The name ‘Asiatic Raccoon’ best identifies this animal for fur consumers.”
Industry leaders praised the decision, saying the anti-fur campaign “relied on confusion, misinformation and the sympathies it created to disparage the fur trade and convince consumers that the fur industry was trading in products made of domestic dog.” The Humane Society, as you’d expect, was less than pleased.
“Here’s an example of the FTC bending over backwards to accept an industry name made up out of whole cloth, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and common English usage,” chief program and policy officer Michael Markarian wrote.
“A raccoon dog isn’t a raccoon, just as a kangaroo rat isn’t a kangaroo — and the FTC should know the difference.”
(Photo: Zumapress.com via the Wall Street Journal)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 14th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, anti-fur, appeal, asia, asiatic raccoon, brief, campaign, dog, dogs, farmers, federal trade commission, fur, fur industry, hsus, humane society of the united states, labels names, Nyctereutes procyonoides, raccoon, raccoon dog, relabel, ruling
The dog, named Scottie, belonged to a Germanton couple.
Early this month, they were out of town when they received a call that Scottie had been killed, according to Fox 8.
A necropsy showed the cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds, but Scottie also had cuts on his legs, trauma to his brain and pancreas, and broken ribs. Authorities believed the dog was dragged, possibly by a four-wheeler.
Scottie’s owner, Joy Caudle, said they found ATV tracks on their property, near where Scottie was dumped.
Fur-Ever Friends of NC initially offered a $4,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of the 3-year-old dog. The Humane Society of the United States has contributed another $5,000.
“This was a horrible, horrible crime,” said Lois Smith, a Fur-Ever Friends board member. “This was a friendly family pet that had never shown any ill will to anyone.”
Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to call Crimestoppers at 336-727-2800.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, atv, australian shepherd, beaten, cruelty, dogs, dragged, forsyth county, fur-ever friends, furever friends, germanton, hsus, humane society of the united states, joy caudle, killed, north carolina, pets, press conference, reward, scottie, sheriff, shot, torture, winston-salem
The American Kennel Club is doing a much better job of protecting bad breeders than it is protecting dogs.
That’s the gist of this investigative report that aired yesterday on NBC’s “Today” show
The accusations aren’t exactly new, and weren’t exactly uncovered by NBC, but it’s good to see the issue getting some national attention.
The AKC, investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen notes, calls itself “the dog’s champion …
“But critics say there’s an ugly reality you don’t see: Some AKC breeders raising diseased dogs, malnourished, living in their own filth. It’s so disturbing that now two of the country’s largest animal welfare groups, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, are condemning the AKC.”
The report included an interview with one dog owner, who purchased a Great Dane from a kennel only weeks after that kennel was inspected by the AKC and found in compliance. The puppy turned out to have intestinal parasites, an upper respiratory infection and a congenital eye defect.
“Law enforcement went into the kennel just two months later, and rescued dozens of dogs,” Rossen reported.
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is featured heavily in the report, and makes the point that the AKC should be working with animal welfare groups to protect dogs instead of protecting bad breeders and fighting laws that would crack down on them.
AKC Director of Communications Lisa Peterson, also interviewed for the report, says she would give the AKC an “A” for its inspection program.
But when the reporter asked how many breeders are producing AKC-registered dogs, she said, “That’s a great question. We don’t know.” And when asked what percentage of AKC registered breeders end up getting inspected, she wouldn’t offer a ball park figure.
“We do thousands of inspections annually,” Peterson said. “We’ve done 55,000 inspections since the year 2000.”
“But what percentage of breeders actually get inspected?”
“… I don’t have that figure,” Peterson said. “I’m sorry.”
Peterson said there are nine AKC inspectors in the U.S. Asked “Do you think that’s an adequate number?” she said, “That’s the number that we have.”
Posted by John Woestendiek May 2nd, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: akc, american kennel club, animals, aspca, breeders, breeding, club, conditions, dog, dogs, hsus, humane society, humane society of the united states, inspections, investigative, jeff rossen, kennel, laws, legislation, nbc, news, pets, report, today, today show, wayne pacelle