Written by | June 7, 2018
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scrubbed thousands of federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement records from its website last year and refused to post new ones, it told the public that these records could be obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. But the USDA has dragged its feet for well over a year in responding to multiple requests for such records, so this morning, PETA filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit challenging the USDA’s failure to release the records as required by federal open-records law.
“The USDA’s own Office of the Inspector General has condemned the agency’s failure to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act meaningfully, and this refusal to hand over enforcement documents appears to be an attempted cover-up of that failing. PETA is leading the charge against the USDA’s assault on transparency, which serves only to protect puppy mills, roadside zoos, laboratories, and other businesses that abuse animals.”
— PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders
To date, PETA and Delcianna Winders, who is a co-plaintiff in the suit, haven’t received any records in response to the combined 17 FOIA requests that they’ve submitted since December 2016. These include Winders’ February 2017 FOIA request for records related to the USDA’s decision to black out its website, even though the agency agreed to grant the request expedited treatment.
PETA has been campaigning against the USDA’s lack of transparency throughout its blackout on enforcement records. The group has published many of the scrubbed documents, filed lawsuits against the agency over the removal of records from its website, and more.