Please Note: APHIS is committed to ensuring the welfare of regulated animals and continues to carry out the critical day-to-day work of ensuring the humane treatment of vulnerable animals through unannounced inspections, pre-compliance visits, horse protection inspections, and other activities.
APHIS, during the past year, has conducted a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the general public to view. To conduct the review, the entire agency search tool database, along with additional documents, was taken off line. As a result of this review, APHIS has removed certain personal information from APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. APHIS recently reposted certain inspection reports and research facility annual reports that were determined to be appropriate for reposting. Once a month, we also publicly post a list of our licensees/registrants that are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. Here is the link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalwelfare/SA_Regulated_Businesses. On that webpage, please click on List of Persons Licensed or Registered under the AWA to see the up-to-date list. Finally, some enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, and consent decisions) continue to be available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website.
The agency will continue to review records and determine which information is appropriate for reposting. Those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports not currently posted to the website, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement related matters may submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for that information. FOIA requests can be submitted here: https://efoia-pal.usda.gov/palMain.aspx. Records will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and Privacy Act. Also, consistent with recent amendments to the FOIA, if the same records are frequently requested records under the FOIA, and are subject to release under the FOIA and Privacy Act, APHIS will post the appropriately redacted versions to its website.
On April 21, 2017: APHIS is posting Animal Welfare inspection reports involving business entities that occurred after the Agency restricted the public’s access to the search tool for the Animal Care Inspection System on Feb. 3, 2017, while the Agency conducts a comprehensive review of the information on its website. The newly posted inspection reports involve inspections that occurred between January 10 and March 24, 2017. As part of the comprehensive review of information, APHIS is continuing to closely review animal inventories that accompany inspection reports. For this reason, the newly posted inspection reports do not include animal inventories, though APHIS intends to make information regarding animal inventories available again in the future.
Consistent with the agency’s procedures for allowing time to consider and incorporate additional information, as appropriate, developed during appeals of inspection findings, inspections that occurred after March 24, 2017, are not yet ready for release. Inspection reports, as well as research facility annual reports, are located here.
On Feb. 17, 2017, APHIS posted the first batch of annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports for certain Federal research facilities that the Agency regulates under the Animal Welfare Act. The reports posted are part of a comprehensive review of the documents the Agency removed from its website in early February and are in the same redacted form as before. The reposted information can be found on our website, here. As announced on Feb. 7, 2017, the agency will continue to review records and determine which information is appropriate for reposting. of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.
Editor’s Note (Revised Feb. 7, 2017) The review of APHIS’ website has been ongoing, and the agency is striving to balance the need for transparency with rules protecting individual privacy. In 2016, well before the change of Administration, APHIS decided to make adjustments to the posting of regulatory records. In addition, APHIS is currently involved in litigation concerning, among other issues, information posted on the agency’s website. While the agency is vigorously defending against this litigation, in an abundance of caution, the agency is taking additional measures to protect individual privacy. These decisions are not final. Adjustments may be made regarding information appropriate for release and posting.
Courts are continuously issuing decisions that provide agencies with guidance on interpreting and applying laws applicable to the release of information to the public by the Federal government, including the legal requirements of the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice maintains comprehensive guidance to federal agencies involving the Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act, and other laws, and updates such guidance based on legal developments. APHIS, with the support of the USDA Office of the General Counsel, continuously monitors these sources of information and makes refinements to APHIS’ practices, as needed.
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 involving the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) that contain personal information covered by the Privacy and Freedom of Information Acts or guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding them. These documents include inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence (such as official warnings), lists of regulated entities, and enforcement records (such as pre-litigation settlement agreements and administrative complaints) that have not received final adjudication. In addition, APHIS will review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations to ensure personal information is not unlawfully released to the general public.
Those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports, research facility annual reports, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement records should submit Freedom of Information Act requests for that information. Records will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and the Privacy Act as well as the latest guidance received from the U.S. Department of Justice. If the same records are frequently requested via the Freedom of Information Act process, APHIS may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website. In addition, some enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, and consent decisions) are available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website (https://www.oaljdecisions.dm.usda.gov). For more information on preparing and submitting Freedom of Information Act requests, please visit https://efoia-pal.usda.gov/palMain.aspx.”