In another indictment of the US Department of Agriculture’s lax enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a new report from the department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) criticizes the USDA Animal Care (AC) program’s reporting system and, more alarmingly, its lack of “a documented process for responding to complaints or for recording the results of the agency’s actions.” Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the OIG was unable to observe inspections and so could not undertake the third portion of its mission, to “ensure breeder compliance with the AWA.”
The OIG found AC’s recordkeeping system so deficient and unreliable that it impeded the ability of the program “to make informed management decisions, identify trends in noncompliant items, and identify how many inspections have been completed.” AC was unable to provide the OIG with a “complete list of all active licensed dog breeders and associated inspections” for a three-year period. Although during the period of this audit AC had begun to transition to a new recordkeeping system, it is clear that the former system did a great deal of damage to the USDA’s ability to take action against noncompliant entities. The OIG cautioned AC to ensure that the new system doesn’t replicate the problems of the old one.
Even worse was the OIG’s findings that AC had no consistent procedures for responding to or resolving complaints or documenting its actions. “As a result, some dog breeder facilities may be conducting regulated activities without a USDA license or oversight. Therefore, APHIS is not able to ensure the overall health and humane treatment of animals at these facilities.”
In other words, after nearly 60 years of enforcing one of the country’s most significant animal protection laws, the department still has not figured out how to handle complaints, follow up on possible unregulated activity, or protect many of the animals who are its responsibility.
The report can be found here.