U.S. Department of Agriculture blacks out animal welfare reports

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[This is Gary Grady, Tom’s brother, posting something that Tom would have wanted his readers to know about. This article is cross-posted from my own blog here.]

The United States Department of Agriculture has ended a longstanding practice of making animal welfare reports available on its website. Previously tens of thousands of reports could be read online concerning treatment of animals at nearly 8000 facilities, including about 1200 research laboratories as well as zoos, circuses, and various commercial enterprises. The reports have to do mainly with large mammals covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.

This is according to articles published in both Science and Nature, the two largest-circulation general science journals.

The USDA’s statement says that the change is intended to protect personal information. But personal information is in fact routinely redacted from these reports, and the reports are still available through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The article in Science says in part,

Inspection reports contain little, if any, personal information about individuals.

Public access to the reports has led to scores of media reports like this article in The Boston Globe in 2012 documenting problems at Harvard University’s primate research facility; the university later closed the trouble-prone New England Primate Research Center. Similarly, the reports allowed Nature and The New Yorker to report on the chronic abuse of goats held at the private company Santa Cruz Biotechnology in California, once the world’s second largest marketer of research antibodies. Several months after the Nature report, USDA in a rare move revoked the company’s license to market the antibodies.

“[These are] basic data about animal use and compliance that taxpayers have a right to access, particularly when it comes to taxpayer-funded labs,” says Justin Goodman, vice president of advocacy and public policy at the White Coat Waste Project, a Washington, D.C.–based group that opposes taxpayer-funded animal experiments.

The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement: “This action benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know.”

And Nature similarly reports,

The disappearance of information caught animal-welfare groups by surprise. “I’m just flabbergasted,” says Eric Kleiman, a research consultant at the Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group in Washington DC. “This is not only the opposite of transparency, it takes us back to the Stone Age.”


Getting such information through FOIA requests can take years, Klein says. And knowing what information to request will be difficult, as the USDA will no longer post complaints that it or outside groups file against an institution. These complaints often trigger USDA investigations.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

Some dog breeders file lawsuit to block regulations

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Apparently, some dog breeders do not want to engage in even minimal welfare standards for welfare practices. As the USDA proposed a move of covering commercial breeders who sell directly to the public under the Animal Welfare Act, some breeders made it clear they do not want to fall under these minimal standards.

They have filed a lawsuit to block expansion of the rules.

Other breeders already fall under the act. But the system needs a upgrade, as too few inspectors are on the job to enforce the regulations, as they they stand now.

In reality, breeders who refuse to house and care for animals under these current, less-than-stringent guidelines should not be allowed to operate at all. Those who refuse proper veterinary care and those who house their dogs or cats in tiny cages 24/7 and those who never allow their animals time for play or exercise or proper food and water should be shut down – today.

It is difficult to understand how anyone could suggest all breeders should NOT be covered under at lease these very minimum standards of care in the Animal Welfare Act. If we shut down the puppy mill operators for good, the costs of enforcing the act will go down. If we shut the puppy mills down and slap some real punishment for the offenders, the penalty will be too great and the risk will be too big for other puppy mill operators.

It is time to see real action against puppy mills.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

What some people will do for profit is sometimes astounding

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From the just-when-you-thought-you-heard-it-all file, we have the following story. A company that reportedly uses 10,000 goats and 5,000 rabbits for harvesting their blood to sell the antibodies, is being accused of animal cruelty.

Numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act were found at Santa Cruz Biotechnology over several years, as reported in a Care2 article from Sunday. But very little was done to relieve the animals’ suffering, until recently, when a complaint was finally filed. But surprisingly, it is reported that the federal government does not rescue animals from cruelty in these cases or bar the offenders from keeping animals.

In the video report above, it is noted that a USDA inspector found a goat with a broken leg and when the inspector went back a month later, the goat was still there with the broken leg.

PACK MENTALITY BLOG: Compassion - teamed with Science and Logic

I’m Sick of It: The stonewalling in opposition to animal-welfare laws

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I’m sick of reading statements about how horrible any and all new anti-puppy mill rules might be for some breeders. I’m sick of seeing the proposals nick-picked apart. I’m sick seeing the nick-picking turned into propaganda based on nothing more than misinformation.

The common theme from the likes of the AKC and other is – ‘we can’t have new regulations to set standards for veterinary care and housing and regular exercise because it will hurt “hobby breeders”.’ It is hard to put into words how wrong that stand is.

ALL BREEDERS should house their dogs in kennels large enough for them to move around – at minimum. ALL BREEDERS should allow their dogs time for regular play and exercise. ALL BREEDERS should offer their dogs regular veterinary care. These basic standards of care are at the heart of what all legislation should cover.

What I’m seeing is a twisting of the wording of these bills, as part of the nick-picking. I’ve read comments suggesting we’ll all have to house our pets in cages and none of them will be able to sleep in bed with us – if the regulations are modified to include Internet puppy sellers under the scope of the Animal Welfare Act.

It’s crazy talk and it’s design to scare people into opposing humane legislation.

The reality is this – we want to see breeding dogs live under humane conditions – where the cages are not tiny, where kennels are cleaned regularly, where the dogs get veterinary care as needed and the dogs are allowed time for play. Who could logically oppose these basic standards of care?

Sadly, it seems some people can oppose the humane treatment of animals, especially where they feel profits need to trump the welfare of animals. For me, I’m sickened by that stand.

Maryland Girl Scouts Troop wins Pack of Compassion Award – for letter to the AKC

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Girl Scout Troop 6811 out of Sandy Spring, Md. wrote a letter recently to the American Kennel Club, asking the organization to drop its opposition to proposed changes to the Animal Welfare Act that would close the loophole in the regulations that too many breeders are jumping through.

The girls want to make sure breeders who sell puppies over the Internet are subjected to regular inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as other breeders are.

In a statement, the AKC told ABC News, “The AKC believes it is neither the intent of the Animal Welfare Act nor USDA to place such an unfair burden on small, hobby breeders.”

This – of course – is completely twisted thinking, designed to divert the topic from the abuse of dogs in puppy mills. The new regulations would cover breeders who sell over the Internet or through other ads. In fact ALL BREEDERS should engage in humane practices. Why should any dog be abused? People who adopt pets or purchase puppies are not permitted to abuse them, under animal-cruelty laws. All breeders should be held to this standard.

The AKC’s position cannot be defended in any way, shape or form. The organization is fighting against regulations to ensure dogs received veterinary care, time for play and exercise and humane housing.

Several members of the Girl Scouts club were quoted in the ABC News piece, including 11-year old Mary Fran Papalia.

We want breeders, internet or otherwise, to be held accountable for their responsibilities. It’s pretty straightforward. If you are keeping dogs, take care of them.

And the story includes quotes from the Girl Scouts’ letter to the AKC: “We don’t understand why the rules should be different for some people, especially if they are making money by selling dogs, who keep so much of the money that their dogs are suffering.

This seems greedy and wrong to us and we hope it does to you too.”

The AKC’s response was short and non-responsive, as you will read in the article.

Three cheers for Girl Scouts Troop 6811. For their efforts to push the AKC to support compassion for animals, this group of impressive young women earns a very big Pack of Compassion Award.

Make sure you read the ABC News article. It contains some really great information and more quotes from the girls.

Pack Topics: Puppy mills; hunting with dogs; animal testing; animal cruelty

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Proposed USDA breeder rules: I ran across another opinion piece about the proposed new USDA rules that would close a huge loophole in breeding regulations. Carole Raphaelle Davis of the LA Animal Rights Examiner discusses the fact that since selling over the Internet, the phone and through the mail are not covered properly by the Animal Welfare Act, these sellers are not regulated the way other breeders are.

The licensed breeders face inspections and fall under basic standards of care, although these standards need to be improve to a large extent.

Violations found at research lab: And speaking of the USDA, inspectors found Animal Welfare Act violations – for the second time – at Santa Cruz Biotechnology’s laboratory. Several goats were found with untreated injuries or other medical conditions.

The Monterey County Herald reports one veterinarian was on staff to care for “10,000 goats and 6,000 rabbits as well as an undetermined number of cattle and horses.” – That’s one vet – as in less than two. Maybe the top officials at the lab can take a pay cut now so that more vets can be hired, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Hunting bears and bobcats with dogs: An effort to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats in California is gaining ground, according to a story posted June 12 on the Daily Democrat website.

And once again, the slippery-slopers are out in force, saying a ban on having dogs run a bear or bobcat to the point of exhaustion so it can be shot at close range, will lead to a ban on all hunting. One hunter in the article is quoted as saying it is more humane that other forms of hunting. Of course, he has no understanding of animal emotion and fails to understand the stress of being chased for miles by a pack of dogs. I guess he would consider that a fun jog in the woods?

Fourteen states have bans in place for hunting bears with dogs and 13 have bans for this practice for bobcats.

Push for better puppy mill regulations in West Virginia: A case in Harrisville, W.Va. involving 30 dogs found abandoned on the side of a road has resulted in renewed calls for better anti-puppy mill regulations. The discussions have centered on the proposed rules to include breeders who sell over the Web, phone and in ads – to be covered under the Animal Welfare Act.

I hope we continue to see this message being spread in every state.

WBOY.com reports the Legislative Action Group of the Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia is one group leading the charge. To me, it is troubling that elected officials have taken so long to get this done, to close this huge loophole in law. This one should have been an unanimous vote in both houses a long time ago.

Puppy store operator charged with animal cruelty: A California puppy store operator has been charged with animal cruelty. NCTimes.com reports this is the third time he has been charged with mistreatment of animals.

Back on March 27,  117 animals were taken during raids on the accused home and from two San Diego pet shops.

USDA’s new proposed rules for dog breeders could help shut down more puppy mills

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It is at least a couple of decades past due, but we might finally see Internet sales and other retail sales of puppies covered under the Animal Welfare Act.

The change in the Animal Welfare Act has been on the table for some time now, but it is again a hot topic in the news this week, with the USDA proposal in the headlines.

The Washington Post reports the new regulations would cover breeders who breed more than four females and sell over the Internet, by mail or through phone sales. They will fall under the same guidelines as wholesale breeders. And this is the important change, as reported by the Washington Post – “” Sellers either must open their doors to the public so buyers can see the animals before they purchase them, or obtain a license and be subject to inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “”

The time is now for the federal government and all state governments to get serious about shutting down puppy mills. The horrible suffering has gone on for far too long.

The new regulations are getting bipartisan support in the US Congress. This is really great news! The bad news is it still doesn’t cover so-called backyard breeders who sell locally from their homes.

The Philly Dawg blog on Philly.com jumped on the news yesterday and and reported a large number of breeders in Pennsylvania have dropped their USDA licenses of late to sell over the Internet and slide by any oversight.

The Humane Society of the United States is applauding the move:

Iowa puppy mill operator was previously cited in ’99 for violating Animal Welfare Act

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Over 90 animals were found recently living in horrible conditions in an alleged puppy mill in Kiron, Iowa. PetAbuse.com has now exposed a report from the USDA noting the breeder had previously violate the Animal Welfare Act in 1999.

The KCAUTV.com story notes the report involved the individual’s store at the time, called Fifth Avenue Pets.

And WQAD.com reports 18 of the dogs are being cared for at the Animal Rescue League in Des Moines, Iowa. And surprise, surprise – the breeder did not have a current USDA license.

Five of the dogs found on the property were dead. The dogs at the Animal Rescue League were described as having “feces-crusted fur.” Hopefully, some really serious charges will be filed in this case.


PM Pack-Line Headlines: Ringling Bros. fine, animal cruelty and puppy mills

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ONE – The owner of the Ringling Bros. circus has agreed to pay up on a $270,000 fine imposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CBS News reports this the largest civil penalty ever assessed against an “animal exhibitor” under the Animal Welfare Act.

Feld Entertainment has stated it does not admit to violating the law but agreed to the settlement with the USDA. The inspection reports, as noted in the CBS story, paints a pattern of troubling treatment of circus elephants. Yet, the company seems to deny any wrongdoing.

TWO – I found interesting editorial written by Angela Holbrook for the ConcornOnline.com. In the piece, Holbrook slams weak laws in regard to animal abuse.

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