Congress pushes USDA to reinstate public animal inspection reports

Language in a document connected to the omnibus spending bill urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase public access to inspection reports of animal breeders and other facilities after the agency, citing privacy concerns, rolled back access to the information.

The USDA removed inspection reports from a public database last February, leading to criticism from lawmakers and animal advocacy groups. The agency later announced that it would repost some of the reports with more information redacted to protect private information and that records could be requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Animal Welfare Act, the USDA is required to conduct inspections of any individual or business that sells, transports, or works with animals, including zoos, animal breeders, and research facilities. In past years the agency has maintained a database of those inspection reports conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS.

In a document published as part of the spending bill, first reported by Science Magazine, Congress writes that the move to redact or restrict access to the reports violated Congressional requirements that the database allow users to access all reports and documents related to enforcement of animal welfare laws. Read more…