On Feb. 3, 2017, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it has implemented actions to remove information from documents posted on its website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication. APHIS will also review and redact, as necessary, the lists of licensees and registrants under the AWA, as well as lists of designated qualified persons (DQPs) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.
Those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement records should submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for that information. Records will be released when authorized and in a manner consistent with the FOIA and Privacy Act. If the same records are frequently requested via the FOIA process, in most instances APHIS may post the appropriately redacted versions to its website. In addition, some enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, and consent decisions) will continue to be available on the USDA’s Office of Administrative Law Judge’s website.
Source: USDA APHIS
Here's what others are saying:
"Advocates, consumers and state governments have long relied on these reports to monitor individuals and businesses holding licenses under the AWA – including zoos, research facilities and commercial dog breeders – and to enforce animal welfare standards. With these reports scrubbed, animal advocates will face extended delays and obstacles that may bring help too late – or not at all – for many suffering animals." – Huffington Post
Jeffrey Howard, publisher of The Walking Horse Report, hailed the change in an article in the Times-Gazette. "I think it is the proper move by the USDA," Howard said. "This is the position of the current lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit that where Contender Farms and SHOW are the plaintiffs. The USDA has been unfairly punishing people by listing them as violators of the HPA while never allowing those parties an opportunity for notice and a hearing.
The Humane Society of the United States says under the terms of a 2009 settlement, USDA agreed to make public some of the records now removed from the database. HSUS has put USDA on notice that it intends to use legal tools to restore the information to the website. – Sciencemag.org
USDA didn't comment on Humane Society's treat of legal action. – Time
Former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urge USDA to reconsider. – National Geographic
Why did USDA remove the data? Some say it was in response to pressure from industries that rely on animals. – Yahoo News