U.S. Government Shut Down: Animal Welfare Is Also Suffering

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The United States Department of Agriculture is one of the government agencies affected by the U.S. shut down. It is responsible for inspecting nearly 8,000 licensed animal facilities and that includes about 3,000 pet breeders as well as over 2,000 traveling zoos, circuses or other unaccredited events. Additionally, the USDA is responsible for inspecting over 1,200 research institutions.

Related: Humane Society Fights Back Against USDA Records Removal

Even with the USDA’s inspections, there is only minimal protection guaranteed against the neglect and cruelty of animals in those groups, as the inspections are occasional. Still, they’re all those animals have, and with the government shut down they have no one ensuring that they are safe.

It’s important because there is no doubt that animal abuse and neglect occurs in these facilities. Every year, the Humane Society of the United States prepares the Horrible Hundred report that sheds light on puppy mills who violate the Animal Welfare Act or other laws commercial dog breeders are supposed to follow. They use data from the USDA inspections and other public records to compile this report.

The USDA inspections are infrequent and not nearly enough, but they are often the only thing that ensures animals get very basic needs met–things like food, water and shelter. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 breeding dogs are kept in tiny cages and held under conditions that are barely legal by USDA standards and without the inspections, there’s nothing to say that the animals will be safe and treated humanely, much less well.

Related: HSUS Declares California Most Humane State in the US

Top all of this off with the fact that the USDA, under President Trump’s administration, restricted public access to USDA inspection records on the public website and even purged information detailing inspections of facilities, and it’s a pretty big mess that only means bad things for animals in America, as the shut down also possibly affects the handling of animals who are slated for slaughter. The USDA doesn’t have any contingency plans that specifically adress humane handling violations during shut downs.