In First-Of-Its Kind Suit, USDA Sued for Refusing to Release Animal Welfare Act Enforcement Records

PETA Files Lawsuit After Agency Fails to Release Federal Open Records

For Immediate Release:
June 7, 2018

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382

Washington – When the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scrubbed thousands of Animal Welfare Act (AWA) enforcement records from its website last year and refused to post new ones, it told the public to obtain these records 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 Animal Welfare Act meaningfully, and this refusal to hand over enforcement documents appears to be an attempted cover-up of that failing,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “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.”

To date, PETA and Winders, who is a co-plaintiff in the suit, haven’t received any records in response to the combined 17 FOIA requests 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.

A copy of PETA’s lawsuit is available upon request. For more information, please visit

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind