In a confusing series of events, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) first removed all regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records from its website, then returned many of the same documents online in response to public outcry.
According to APHIS, all records pertaining to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act were removed from its website on February 3 after a “comprehensive review.” APHIS later informed the regulated community that the records had been removed because of pending litigation. The action was considered a cautionary step due to privacy concerns.
APHIS has since returned some of the documents to its website. The first batch of reposted records included annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports from certain federal agencies that APHIS regulates. Additional documents were reposted a week later. Those reports pertained to registrants under the AWA, which include research facilities, intermediate handlers, and carriers that move animals.
Throughout this process, APHIS has pledged its commitment to safeguarding the welfare of animals and to ensuring transparency. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology will continue to monitor the situation.