USDA must now publicly report all animal welfare violations in zoos and other facilities

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The US Department of Agriculture must now reveal all welfare violations in every submitted pet store inspection report.

Previously, inspectors had the legal right to omit certain minor transgressions from publicly available documents, citing them as “teachable moments”.

Omissions have been permitted for six years, but no longer continue. Previously overlooked issues included deficiencies in record keeping and cleanliness issues.

Now pet stores, including dog breeding centers and zoos, will have all their offenses reported in full.

Violators who fail to comply with their duty to care for animals may be fined and/or charged with animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act.

Animal activists welcome update

Animal welfare advocates have criticized the previous policy since it came into effect. Citing this as a noticeable lack of transparency, the new update was hailed as a victory for animals in captivity.

“It was impossible to get an accurate report on the operations of an approved facility and their failures,” said Matt Rossell, campaign manager at the Animal Legal Defense Fund in a statement.

He continued, “Teachable moments have hampered proper and legal animal care.”

USDA Animal Welfare Program Assistant Administrator Betty Goldentyer announced that effective immediately, all violations will be reported in full. They will also be available for public review on the USDA website.

“The humane treatment of animals has always been [our] top priority, and we are using all available options to achieve this goal,” Goldentyer said in a statement.

“Teachable Moments”

The USDA introduced its Teachable Moments policy in 2016. It has been claimed that this was an attempt to allow inspectors and facilities to work closely together in the interest of good. – to be animal.

“We view teachable moments as an educational approach,” read the initial statement.

Teachable moments became a cause for concern when the reports turned out to be heavily redacted. As a result, it often took years to access the missing information.

A workaround was to publish the moments separately online, but not in the facility reports. This was widely criticized as being misleading due to the locations technically having a clean inspection record. This, while he is still under investigation for minor infractions.

Congress used its 2022 appropriations bill to end the policy on August 1.

Concerns that prompted policy change

Within two years of the introduction of the teachable moments policy, welfare citations dropped by 60%. PETA also claims that between 2015 and 2020, enforcement activity against licensed animal locations dropped by 90percent.

The USDA has been found to allow a number of serious welfare violations to go unreported in pet stores. These include carrying bear cubs in a covered plastic bin, footage of which was posted to Instagram on March 18.

A month after the incident, USDA inspectors issued a teachable moment for poor ventilation, although it was a citation violation.

“This is just one recent example in a long list of instances where the USDA failed to follow its own protocols,” said Brittany Peet, associate general counsel for the PETA Foundation for Enforcement. captive animal law. National geographic.

Pet shops call for discretion

Although it claims to advocate for transparency in animal care, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums calls for “discretion” in reporting.

Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the nonprofit, said he hopes the new policy doesn’t send the wrong message. He calls on inspectors to use their own judgment to determine whether certain violations actually require citations.

“USDA inspectors, at some level, have to be trusted to make a decision, like you would hope a local police officer would,” Ashe said in a statement.

‘If I have a tail light out, or I’ve gone through a stop sign, or something like that, we all hope law enforcement officers use this opportunity to kind of say, ‘ okay, don’t do it again.'”

PETA celebrates the unredacted reporting policy but views the necessary congressional intervention as regrettable. The organization views the USDA as not being proactive about its own actions.

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