5 min read

People Are Sending Photos Of Their Pets To The U.S. Government For The Best Reason

There are a LOT of animal lovers in this country.

Ever since animal welfare reports - which have been easily available to the public for a decade - were suddenly scrubbed from a government website last Friday, people who love animals have been speaking out.

The reports, which were housed on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) site, included details about animal abuse and suffering at puppy mills, circuses, zoos, laboratories, farms and even SeaWorld. Since they were removed, it's become much harder for the public to be informed about which facilities are good and which are bad for animals.

A USDA-licensed puppy mill in Iowa | Vimeo/CAPS

"All information was removed today. This includes inspection reports for breeders, exhibitors and research facilities," Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist for legislative and public affairs at USDA-APHIS, told The Dodo on Friday.

The unofficial Twitter account for the USDA - one of many alternative accounts that arose after the federal government started restricting what information government agencies could tell the public - encouraged people on Thursday to speak up for the sake of transparency, using adorable photos of their pets.

So the animal photos started pouring in, using the hashtag #NoUSDAblackout. And many of them came with a little story.

Some showed dogs and puppies who had been rescued from puppy mills.

Some of these dogs had been bred relentlessly at these mills, and abuses were exposed to the public, thanks to the USDA reports.

Others showed cats who finally found real homes, after surviving the worst.

And still others showed people with their pets - whole families that became complete, thanks to their rescued animals.

Meanwhile, as concerned citizens are speaking out, animal welfare organizations are making plans to take legal action against the USDA to make the information freely available again.

And a New Jersey Senator, Raymond Lesniak, is already planning to fight the information blackout locally: New Jersey "will counter the USDA info blackout by prohibiting any pet store from sourcing a pet unless the breeder waives its 'so called' right of privacy and has its inspection reports on the USDA website," Senator Lesniak told The Dodo.

"This appears to be a situation of agency capture with the USDA cowering to special interests to the detriment of transparency and animal welfare," Nancy Perry, senior vice president of government relations for the ASPCA, told The Dodo. "This is public information and subject to FOIA, so it's dumbfounding that the USDA would take action to make this information more difficult to access. We are deeply concerned this is an effort to protect those who are doing harm to animals."

Luckily, people who love animals, of all political backgrounds, know that people who abuse animals should not be protected by opacity and that animals deserve better.

"Most days it's hard to tell who rescued who," one woman @USDA#NoUSDAblackout">wrote on Twitter, posting a photo of her rescue dog. "Restore @USDA #NoUSDAblackout."

To take action against this lack of transparency, you can file a request for information through FOIA. To ask that this information be made easily available again, you can sign this petition.