Horse Protection Act documents were included.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a statement on Friday, February 3 that documents related to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and Horse Protection Act (HPA) had been removed from its website that was previously accessible by the public. The documents in question included inspection reports, research facility annual reports and lists of individuals licensed to inspect horses for compliance with the HPA.
For readers unfamiliar with the HPA, the act is intended to protect performance Tennessee Walking Horses from soring and stacks through inspection and enforcement. Recent rule changes for the HPA were slated to go into effect in 2017 until they were halted by the Trump administration for review.
According to the APHIS website, this information has been pulled from public access due to a “comprehensive review,” the details and findings of which are not stated, in order to remove personal information, including warning letters and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication. APHIS states that it constantly refines its practices of sharing information based on continuing developments regarding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act.
The public may still request information regarding these documents from APHIS by submitting a FOIA request, but this information is no longer easily accessible the way it used to. APHIS does state that if the same records are frequently requested under FOIA, APHIS will post the redacted versions to its website.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, which has made anti-soring of the Tennessee Walking Horse a leading plank of its platform, the lack of access to this information “frustrate[s] efforts to show the extraordinary violation rates for horse show participants – a data set that has made it clear that this segment of the industry is openly, routinely defying federal law.”
APHIS states that the review of the information that it posts online has been taking place for the past year. However, many advocacy groups see the timing of this action to be suspicious, right on the heels of the new administration’s routine freezing of new regulations.
You can read the APHIS’ statement and view the Q&A at the following links: