A shocking new investigative report has just been released from the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG). The report found that the animal care unit of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is tasked with inspecting animal breeding facilities and animal dealers, is taking little to no enforcement actions against licensed breeders and dealers who violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
The number of those violators is alarming: out of 8,289 licensed dealers, 5,261 violated AWA. At the re-inspection of 4,250 violators, inspectors found that 2,416 repeatedly violated AWA. That’s a 63% violation rate and a 57% repeat violation rate for licensed dealers.
- A dog with so many feeding ticks on its face that it appears to have a bunch of grapes hanging from its forehead
- A dog with a severe leg wound left untreated for 7 days, during which time the flesh and muscle rotted away to reveal bare bone.
- A dog whose entire body is completely covered in ticks.
- Animal Care Inspectors did not confiscate animals that were dying, starving or seriously suffering. The Animal Welfare Act allows APHIS to confiscate any animal found to be suffering as a result of a failure to comply with AWA. However, APHIS has added a provision requiring that the violator be given a final opportunity to take corrective action before confiscation can occur, even in extreme cases where animals are dying or suffering
- Animal Care Inspectors did not require immediate care for suffering animals.
- Animal Care Inspectors did not report cases of severe animal cruelty/neglect to appropriate state authorities for follow-up and/or prosecution.
- Animal Care Inspectors allowed 52% of repeat offenders to go unpunished and unsanctioned:
“...Inspectors ‘must recommend an enforcement action’ for repeat violators; however, one of the choices is to take no action, which is what the inspectors did in 52 percent of the repeat violations we reviewed.”
- Animal Care misused the penalty system, giving breeders and dealers such deep discounts on fees as to make the penalty useless. Sometimes discounts were so high that the penalty went from a negative to a positive figure.
- Animal Care Inspectors incorrectly classified violations, delaying follow-up inspections and enforcement action. If a violation is classified as a direct violation, the inspector must re-inspect the facility within 45 days to ensure that suffering animals are treated in a timely fashion. Indirect violations may not require re-inspection for an entire year, leaving animals in distress for extended periods.
- Animal Care Inspectors failed to sufficiently describe and/or document cases with photographic evidence. In one case this resulted in a violator’s fine being reduced from $25,000 to $2,500.
- Dealers/breeders selling over the Internet are exempt from inspection and licensing requirements.
- Animal Care narrowly defines a repeat violator as one that consecutively violates the same subsection of the animal welfare regulations. This means that a dealer can violate multiple sections of the regulations without being labeled a repeat violator.
Specific Examples from the Report
- Exmple 1: At a facility in Oklahoma with 83 adult dogs, AC cited the breeder for a total of 20 violations (including 1 repeat and 1 direct) during 5 inspections from April 2006 to December 2007. The direct violation concerned the lack of adequate veterinary care for three dogs, one of which involved a dog that had been bitten by another dog.
The dog’s leg wound was left untreated for at least 7 days, which resulted in the flesh around the wound rotting away to the bone (ed note: see photo on p. 11 of the report / p. 15 in acrobat reader).
Animal Care did not notify any Oklahoma officials (which has first-offense felony laws for animal cruelty) of the inhumane treatment the dog received (ed note: Take a look at the photo evidence and you will have a better appreciation of just how incomprehensible this is).
- Example 2: At another facility in Oklahoma with 96 adult dogs, Animal Care cited the breeder for 23 violations (including 12 repeats) during 4 inspections from August 2005 to September 2007. Although national office instructions state, “if compliance [is] not attained quickly, proceed to other enforcement steps,” Animal Care could not explain why it took no enforcement action.
During our visit to the facility in July 2008, AC cited the breeder for another 11 violations (including 1 repeat). We found numerous dogs infested with ticks.
In one case, the ticks completely covered the dog’s body yet the inspector cited the ticks as an indirect violation (i.e., not affecting the animal’s health). As of early June 2009—11 months after our visit—the case was still under investigation (ed note: see the photo in the report to fully appreciate what this dog was subjected to for over 11 months - p. 11 of report / p. 16 in acrobat reader).
- Example 3: At a breeder facility in Arkansas with about 100 adult dogs, we observed an excessive accumulation of fecal or other waste material in the drainage between two animal enclosures with overpowering odor. The inspector did not cite this as a violation—either direct or indirect. Because the breeder was not cited for any direct violations, the inspector will not return for a re-inspection for a year.
- Example 4: At a facility in Oklahoma with 219 adult dogs, Animal Care cited the breeder for 29 violations (including 9 repeats) during 3 inspections from February 2006 to January 2007. AC requested an IES investigation in May 2007. However, before the investigation resulted in any enforcement action, the inspector conducted another inspection in November 2007 and found five dead dogs and other starving dogs that had resorted to cannibalism. Despite these conditions, AC did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, as a result, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was revoked.
“We asked why the dogs were not confiscated when the inspector first found the dead and starving dogs. AC responded that its regulations require that the violator be given an opportunity to correct the condition before any confiscation can occur.”
- Example 5: One licensed breeder in Ohio, with no veterinary qualifications, operated on a pregnant dog without anesthesia; the breeder delayed calling a veterinarian and the dog bled to death. The inspector also found that 40 percent of the dogs in the kennel were blind due to an outbreak of Leptospirosis. The inspector determined that the facility’s water was contaminated and had caused the outbreak.
Not only did this person retain their license, they were given a 25-percent good faith penalty reduction.
I hope you are so outraged by this information that you will forward the OIG report to your representative in Congress and demand change. There must be a complete overhaul of the current system that allows breeders and dealers to operate without oversight or repercussions for inhumane treatment of animals. Putting more band-aids on APHIS is not sufficient.
Title: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dealers