Washington, DC – June 13, 2018 – Cooley advised the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on its lawsuit against the US Department of Agriculture. The lawsuit claims the USDA is refusing to release critical animal welfare records requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Cooley partner Bonnie Weiss McLeod led the team advising the ASPCA.
The lawsuit highlights that thousands of documents relating to the inspection of facilities licensed under the Animal Welfare Act, including zoos and commercial dog breeders, were removed from the USDA website in early 2017. After the USDA publicly asserted that the documents were still obtainable through the FOIA process, record requests made by the ASPCA revealed the USDA continued to suppress critical inspection and enforcement information. Citing privacy concerns, the USDA claims the requested records are exempt from disclosure. The records that the agency has released have been heavily redacted.
“The USDA’s delays and deliberate omissions in making these records accessible severely hamper our efforts to advocate for dogs languishing in deplorable puppy mills,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA, in a news release. “The ASPCA’s lawsuit is crucial to preserve the FOIA process and gain access to these government records, which is critical to protecting animal welfare.”
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the US.
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