Victory: Lawsuit Over USDA Website Blackout to Return to Court

Federal Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of PETA-Led Coalition in Suit Contesting Concealment of Records of Animal Welfare Act Violations

For Immediate Release:
March 18, 2019

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


On March 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of a PETA-led coalition in a lawsuit to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to return to its website all records related to puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and other animal-exploiting enterprises.

The coalition filed the lawsuit just days after the USDA abruptly removed from its website thousands of records related to the federal Animal Welfare Act on February 3, 2017.

The resulting outcry prompted the USDA to restore access to a fraction of the information that was previously available. Even though it resumed posting inspection reports, it did so with the identifying information for the majority of the facilities entirely redacted. Because the agency posted these blacked-out documents, the district court dismissed the coalition’s case—but the appellate court has now reversed that decision, noting that the coalition’s lawsuit “can’t be reasonably read as demanding only that the agency be required to restore mutilated versions of documents previously published without redactions” [emphasis added].

“The USDA’s refusal to fully release information it is legally required to post online is an outrageous attempt to protect animal-exploiting businesses from public scrutiny,” says PETA Foundation Vice President of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Delcianna Winders. “PETA looks forward to arguing in court that the government should stop covering up illegal cruelty to animals—and its own failure to address that cruelty meaningfully.”

The plaintiffs in the case are PETA, Rescue + Freedom Project, and Born Free USA—along with Winders and public-health advocacy group the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. They’re represented by Washington, D.C.–based public-interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks.

The appellate court’s decision also clears the way for a second, related lawsuit filed by a similar PETA-led coalition in April 2018, which the district court put on hold pending resolution of this appeal.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit

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