Thousands of animals in USDA-licensed facilities feel impact of government shutdown

By on January 16, 2019 with 0 Comments

The federal government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, has devastated many American families. But it has also affected countless numbers of animals, including thousands of domestic and wild animals in puppy mills, research laboratories, zoos and other facilities that are licensed — and inspected — by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA is responsible for inspecting approximately 8,000 federally licensed animal facilities, including roughly 3,000 commercial pet breeders, more than 2,000 roadside and traveling zoos, circuses and other unaccredited attractions, and more than 1,200 research institutions. These entities are responsible for hundreds of thousands of animals for whom the occasional USDA inspection may provide the only protections against potential cruelty and neglect. USDA inspectors are also present at horse shows to ensure that Tennessee walking horses and related breeds are not subjected to “soring,” the intentional infliction of pain on the horses’ legs and hooves to produce an artificial gait known as the “big lick.”

We know that abuse and neglect of animals in these contexts does occur. Each year, HSUS staff members compile the Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills using USDA inspection data and other public records to document violations of the Animal Welfare Act and other laws by commercial dog breeders. On any given day, there are an estimated 190,000 breeding dogs crammed in tiny cages and kept in conditions that are barely legal at USDA-licensed operations. USDA inspections, while infrequent and far from adequate, are often the only way to ensure that the animals’ most basic needs – like food, water, shelter from the cold and essential veterinary care – are met.

At horse shows, data we’ve analyzed in the past show far fewer or no soring violations when inspectors from within the walking horse industry are providing oversight on their own, compared to when USDA inspectors are present.

The shutdown can potentially also impact farm animals slated for slaughter, because the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Program’s contingency plans on inspections during slaughter do not specifically address humane handling violations, leaving it unclear how or whether any animal welfare violations will be addressed.

It’s worth noting that the shutdown further exacerbates other problems with USDA inspections that have emerged in recent years. An October Washington Post report, for example, revealed that USDA enforcement against Animal Welfare Act violators dropped dramatically in 2018.

In a development that we have resisted with all available means, and that we are fighting with a lawsuit, the USDA also severely restricted public access to USDA inspection records on its public website and in response to records requests. In February 2017, the USDA purged critical information on the facilities it inspects from its website – information that groups like ours had relied on for years, and information that is gathered at taxpayer expense to which the public has a right of access.

The USDA also altered its inspection guide in 2018 to loosen rules regarding veterinary oversight and other critical protections for animals.

The situation at the USDA provides just a few examples of how damaging the shutdown has been in regard to critical oversight and regulatory functions of importance to animal welfare. The same thing is happening in other agencies of the federal government, with negative consequences for animals in other contexts.

The shutdown will end, eventually, but it is exacerbating a crisis at the USDA, coming in the wake of dramatic indicators of subpar performance during the past two years. Unless we see greater transparency and an improvement in USDA oversight of the facilities, the problems for animals trapped in these situations will not end anytime soon.

HSUS assists more than 200 German Shepherds rescued from puppy mills in Georgia, Maryland

By on January 15, 2019 with 0 Comments
HSUS assists more than 200 German Shepherds rescued from puppy mills in Georgia, Maryland

For dogs bred in puppy mills, there are no good days. They are crammed into small spaces, often denied basic needs like food and water and veterinary care, and they rarely, if ever, get the human companionship and enrichment that makes their lives better and . . . 

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Japan’s rogue stance on whaling deserves worldwide condemnation

By on January 14, 2019 with 4 Comments
Japan’s rogue stance on whaling deserves worldwide condemnation

Japan this week formalized its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission in a letter, setting the stage for its resumed killing of hundreds of whales in its coastal waters and perhaps elsewhere as well. Japan announced its departure from the IWC last month, and with . . . 

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A blog renamed, a mission renewed

By on January 11, 2019 with 3 Comments
A blog renamed, a mission renewed

These are exciting times for the animal protection movement, and especially for those of us who work at the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates, including Humane Society International and the Humane Society Legislative Fund. The year 2019 has come in with . . . 

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‘A Dog’s Way Home’ celebrates bond between veterans and dogs; addresses problems with breed-specific bans

By on January 10, 2019 with 3 Comments
‘A Dog’s Way Home’ celebrates bond between veterans and dogs; addresses problems with breed-specific bans

From Rin Tin Tin to Lassie and Benji, the movies have long celebrated and reaffirmed the strength of the human-animal bond and the joy that companion animals bring to our lives. In this cherished tradition, a new movie that hits theaters tonight honors an even . . . 

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States act to protect animals left outside in cold weather

By on January 9, 2019 with 9 Comments
States act to protect animals left outside in cold weather

Late last year, Pennsylvania investigators found a dog named Cam dead and frozen solid on a heavy chain, wedged between a small dog house and a fence. He appeared to have been digging for warmth when he died. As heartbreaking as this story is, unfortunately, . . . 

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Complaints about sick Petland puppies pour in after HSUS undercover investigation

By on January 8, 2019 with 10 Comments
Complaints about sick Petland puppies pour in after HSUS undercover investigation

On December 11, we released the results of our shocking undercover investigation at two Petland locations, one in Las Vegas and another in Kennesaw, Georgia, where our investigators found several sick puppies and a dead puppy in a freezer. When we started the investigation, we . . . 

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Breaking news: Supreme Court lets stand California, Massachusetts bans on cage confinement; foie gras ban

By on January 7, 2019 with 5 Comments
Breaking news: Supreme Court lets stand California, Massachusetts bans on cage confinement; foie gras ban

In a victory that will likely prevent significant suffering for millions of farm animals, the Supreme Court today snuffed out efforts by the factory farming lobby and associated interests to overturn landmark laws against cage confinement in California and Massachusetts, and a California ban on . . . 

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For my mom, the first animal advocate I ever knew

By on January 4, 2019 with 12 Comments
For my mom, the first animal advocate I ever knew

I lost my mother this week. She was 92 years old, and she packed most of those years with a remarkable compassion for animals – a compassion she cultivated in my sisters and me as well as in countless other people she encountered. My mother . . . 

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116th Congress brings new hope, opportunities for animal protection

By on January 3, 2019 with 3 Comments
116th Congress brings new hope, opportunities for animal protection

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson We are on Capitol Hill today for the swearing in of the 116th Congress, along with Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund colleagues. We’re meeting with members of Congress, old and new, and gearing . . . 

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North Carolina, where a lion just killed a woman, is one of only four states with no law against private ownership of dangerous wild animals

By on January 2, 2019 with 2 Comments
North Carolina, where a lion just killed a woman, is one of only four states with no law against private ownership of dangerous wild animals

Over the weekend, Americans were shocked by an incident at the Conservators Center in North Carolina, a privately run wild animal menagerie, where a 22-year-old intern who was cleaning an enclosure was attacked and killed by a lion. Law enforcement shot and killed the lion . . . 

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California, which passed world’s strongest farm animal protection law and the nation’s first cosmetics testing ban, tops Humane State rankings again

By on December 28, 2018 with 1 Comment
California, which passed world’s strongest farm animal protection law and the nation’s first cosmetics testing ban, tops Humane State rankings again

California has once again topped our 2018 Humane State rankings list, after overwhelmingly passing the strongest farm animal protection law in the world, and by enacting a law that bans the sale of cosmetics tested on animals — the first U.S. state to do so. . . . 

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