APHIS Does Not Support the Ongoing Campaign to Stop Soring

Malinda Larkin tells us of a move by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that worsens the ongoing campaign to eliminate the soring of horses. (Please see the Journal of the American Veterinary Association at https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170401e.aspx.) APHIS has removed information from its website that is vital to researchers, pet stores, animal rights activists and  Congress. What type of information is gone? Larkin writes, “reports and documents providing information on compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.” The AWA of 1966 regulates the treatment of animals in research and exhibition, while the Horse Protection Act of 1970 is much more powerful. This federal law looks upon soring as a crime punishable by both civil and criminal penalties. It is illegal to show a horse, enter it at a horse show, or to auction, sell, offer for sale, or transport a horse for any of these purposes if it has been sored.

As you can imagine, the data that used to be at the APHIS site is wide-ranging, and what makes the removal of it so egregious is that the agency removed the information without any prior notice. APHIS claims it had to be done for reasons of transparency and individual privacy. Larkin says that starting last February 3, whoever pulled up the site was unable to read such valuable information as inspection reports, annual reports, and enforcement reports. APHIS has since put back some information and says that those requesting information should use the Freedom of Information Act.

What does APHIS say about this? From its website: “As a result of {our}review, APHIS has removed certain personal information from APHIS’ website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. APHIS recently reposted certain inspection reports and research facility annual reports that were determined to be appropriate for reposting. Once a month, we also publicly post a list of our licensees/registrants that are regulated under the Animal Welfare Act.” The reader is then directed to go to a link and find the list of persons licensed or registered under the AWA to see an up-to-date list. Finally, the APHIS site tells us, some “enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, and consent decisions) continue to be available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website.”

It is impossible to divorce this issue from political arguments that seek to keep the public from learning the truth about who has been taken to court and fined for soring, or whether a sorer has gone back to soring after he paid a small often inadequate fine, or who have been violators of federal laws in the past. Much of the raw data needed for effecting change in the laws is gone, and the affected horses continue to be tortured.

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