The Trump Administration Literally Hates Puppies
Animal-welfare records disappear
by DAVID AXE
In early February 2017, the Trump administration scrubbed from the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture decades worth of public animal-welfare records. That’s thousands of pages documenting violations of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act by roadside “zoos,” puppy mills, abusive circuses and other companies.
In removing the records, Pres. Donald Trump is effectively shielding for-profit animal-abusers from public scrutiny. What kinds of abuses might go unnoticed? The Government Attic found out firsthand when it obtained, by way of the Freedom of Information Act, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s annual newsletters from 2013 to 2015.
The 2013 newsletter recounts how U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents worked with the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and save some abused dogs in 2012.
“The two pit bulls had just arrived on a plane coming from the Dominican Republic [to Indianapolis], and they needed veterinary care,” newsletter author Robert Willems wrote. “Their injuries, however, immediately aroused suspicion. They appeared to be fighting dogs, but CBP officers were initially uncertain about what to do or who had jurisdiction.”
After making a number of calls, airport officials contacted APHIS’ Veterinary Services office in Indianapolis and spoke with Frank Wilson, the area veterinarian in charge for Indiana. Realizing that this might involve an Animal Welfare Act violation, Wilson reached out to his colleagues in [the] Animal Care [division of the USDA]. He called Rick Kirsten, an A.C. field supervisor, to ask for advice. That turned out to be a wise decision. …
Kirsten and CBP officials relayed information to Agent Chris Golightly with USDA’s Office of the Inspector General in Indiana. Golightly looked into the situation and quickly discovered that the dogs had been sent to a kennel in Muncie, Indiana. He contacted Muncie Police Department personnel, who investigated the situation and determined that the animals were indeed fighting dogs.
Police officers subsequently raided the kennel and confiscated 25 dogs, including the two from the Dominican Republic. The dogs were sent to several shelters for proper care. Officers also arrested kennel owner Rahsaan Ahmad Johnson.
On Nov. 5, , a circuit court jury found Johnson guilty of 14 counts of possessing an animal for use in an animal fighting contest, one count of promoting an animal fighting contest and seven counts of cruelty to an animal.
The USDA told National Geographic that, from now on, the public will always have to invoke FOIA in order to obtain records such as those related to the Indianapolis incident. But FOIA requests can take years and cost thousands of dollars.
In making it more difficult for Americans to learn about animal-abusers, Trump is siding with dog-fighting rings against the public. Now a coalition of animal-welfare groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is suing the USDA to force the agency to restore the records.