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March 29, 2011

The HSUS Applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Launching New Database on Animal Welfare Enforcement

Transparency of animal care records improved

WASHINGTON - The Humane Society of the United States applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture for launching a new database to increase public access to information regarding research facilities and other entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. The new database came about, in part, as a result of a 2009 lawsuit settlement agreement between USDA and The HSUS about access to animal research records under the Freedom of Information Act.  

“The public has a right to know whether institutions are abiding by animal welfare laws, and what enforcement actions are being taken,” said Kathleen Conlee, senior director of animal research issues for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States is pleased that the USDA has taken this proactive step toward greater transparency and public access to animal welfare information.”

The capabilities of USDA’s database extend beyond the settlement agreement and include the ability to sort and analyze information according to multiple criteria. This will enable stakeholders to determine the most common Animal Welfare Act violations committed by research facilities, or types of research that cause the most animal suffering, for example, and could lead the agency and the regulated entities to focus on issues that need improvement or increased attention.

The HSUS’s 2005 lawsuit alleged that the USDA violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide The HSUS with numerous animal research reports required by the Animal Welfare Act, including reports containing information regarding species and number of animals used in experiments associated with certain pain and distress categories. The suit also sought to compel the USDA to make certain animal research facility reports available to the public online and in a timely manner. 

The new USDA search engine allows increased access not only to animal research facility information but extends to records on all entities regulated under the AWA.

Facts

  •  The Animal Welfare Act requires minimum standards of care and treatment for warm-blooded animals other than birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research. These animals are exempt from Animal Welfare Act provisions. 
  • An estimated 25 million animals are used each year in research in the United States and tens of millions more are bred and subsequently euthanized. Approximately 1 million of the animals used for research at an estimated 1,275 institutions are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. Animals used in research include dogs, cats, rabbits, non-human primates, guinea pigs, mice, rats, birds, farm animals and others.
  • The Animal Welfare Act requires each animal research facility to  submit a report to the USDA annually regarding its activities. These reports include information on number and species of animals used in research protocols; whether pain and distress relief were provided to the animals during; and justification as to why pain and distress relief were not provided, when applicable.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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