USDA Website Blackout Prompts PETA’s Release of More Than 19,000 Records

Archive of Captive-Animal Exhibitor Inspection Reports Dates Back to 1984

For Immediate Release:
February 28, 2017

David Perle 202-483-7382

Washington – Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) deletion from its website of all records related to puppy mills, roadside zoos, traveling shows, and other enterprises that use and exploit animals, PETA has released every USDA inspection report of captive-animal exhibitors in its archives—nearly 21,000 records, the oldest of which dates from 1984.

“It’s critical for animal advocates, law-enforcement officials, and members of the public to know how animal exhibitors have violated the law and whether dangerous wild animals are located nearby,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA will use every opportunity to push the USDA to put all these widely used documents back on its website, including all new records as they’re created.”

Over the years, PETA has repeatedly used USDA records to expose animal-welfare violations and help abused animals, including revealing the use of a paralytic drug on animals—who remained fully sensitive to pain during procedures—at Ohio and North Carolina roadside zoos owned by Henry Hampton; the death of Nina the elephant at Carson & Barnes Circus; and the plight of Joe, a solitary chimpanzee at The Mobile Zoo, who, after a PETA campaign and lawsuit, was moved to an accredited sanctuary, where he’s now thriving as part of a large social group of chimpanzees.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—has joined a coalition of leading animal-protection groups and others to file a lawsuit to compel the USDA to provide the plaintiffs with the deleted records. The lawsuit contends that the sudden February 3 removal of these documents was illegal because, among other grounds, the Freedom of Information Act requires agencies to post frequently requested records on their websites. The litigation also seeks to ensure that these critically important animal-welfare records will continue to be made publicly available as they are created.

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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