"USDA inspectors documented 60 percent fewer violations at animal facilities in 2018 from the previous year, in what animal protection groups say is the latest sign of weakened enforcement by an agency charged with ensuring pet breeders, research labs, zoos and other exhibitors follow federal animal welfare laws.
About 8,000 facilities licensed by the USDA to keep animals are subject to surprise inspections every one to three years, though the agency says it now provides advance notice to some. Inspectors can note citations known as “noncompliances,” such as inadequate shelter or untreated wounds, and categorize them as noncritical, critical or direct — the latter two being the most serious.
In 2017, inspectors recorded more than 4,000 citations, including 331 marked as critical or direct, according to the Animal Welfare Institute, an advocacy group that tallied the figures using inspection reports published on a USDA website. In 2018, the number of citations fell below 1,800, of which 128 were critical or direct."