The president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has called for a thorough audit of the USDA’s dog breeder inspection programs, citing weak enforcement and a lack of transparency.
In an opinion piece published in The Hill, ASPCA CEO Matt Bershadker lauded the USDA’s Office of Inspector General’s recent decision to include an audit of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in its 2019 Annual Plan. According to Bershadker, the decision to conduct an audit is a much needed step following nearly a decade of “major deficiencies” having been observed within APHIS and its enforcement of standards for commercial dog breeders.
Within the United States, animal breeders have been held to standards established by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) since 1966. The USDA’s APHIS is responsible for enforcing the welfare standards set by the AWA. However, a string of recent critical reports and high-profile incidents — including the purging of its breeder inspection database — have cast doubt about the ability of APHIS to carry out its duties. Recently reported drops in the number of disciplinary actions levied against breeders that have violated AWA standards of care have only underscored these doubts.
The ongoing lack of transparency combined with weak enforcement of the minimal standards of care required under the AWA is a tragedy for the long-suffering animals in commercial breeding facilities. A new OIG audit will not only give us more insight into the agency’s shortcomings but will hopefully spur a much-needed elevation of AWA standards of care. Since the law’s enactment over 50 years ago, those standards have too often fallen short of their promise to adequately protect vulnerable animals.
— Matt Bershadker, President & CEO, ASPCA