"The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.
In a statement, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service cited court rulings and privacy laws for the decision, which it said was the result of a “comprehensive review” that took place over the past year. It said the removed documents, which also included records of enforcement actions against violators of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act, would now be accessible only via Freedom of Information Act Requests. Those can take years to be approved.
“We remain equally committed to being transparent and responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs, and maintaining the privacy rights of individuals with whom we come in contact,” the statement said.
The records that had been available were frequently used by animal welfare advocates to monitor government regulation of animal treatment at circuses, scientific labs and zoos. Journalists have used the documents to expose violations at universities."