Crucial Animal Welfare Act enforcement data removed from USDA website

On Friday afternoon, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) unceremoniously deleted its database of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) inspection and compliance records from its website. According to the agency: “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.”

This “commitment to being transparent” (by withholding information from the public) is particularly worrisome because IFAW and our supporters rely on this database to access animal care records for sanctuaries—to distinguish them from pseudo-sanctuaries—and other facilities housing captive wild animals. This information aids the public in determining which exhibits to attend and which organizations are operating in accordance with the standards of a true sanctuary.

So why is USDA working to shield AWA violators from public scrutiny? And what does this mean for animal welfare advocates who wish to support only true sanctuaries—not animal abusers—with their time and money? For now, remember that when visiting sanctuaries and zoos, make sure they are legitimate, accredited facilities—and if you’re uncertain, refer to these guidelines.

IFAW will continue to work to keep the public informed about pseudo-sanctuaries, roadside zoos, and other exploitative animal displays. I look forward to working together to ensure that no matter how many records are wrongly hidden from the public, consumers will make good choices and support only responsible sanctuaries.  


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime