USDA Fails to Respond Swiftly to Animal Suffering

For years, US Department of Agriculture inspectors dutifully documented suffering: Chinchillas with eyes swollen, weeping, and sealed shut; a thin, unresponsive chinchilla, missing part of her leg, brutally “euthanized” by breaking her neck; another with a large, inflamed swelling under his chin. At another facility, multiple dogs under severe heat stress with no drinking water, one in a skeletal emaciated state; a puppy who cried out and died before inspectors’ eyes. Horses entered in shows with injured legs—pain intentionally inflicted to “enhance” their gait.

After not confiscating a single animal despite years of inspections documenting animal pain and distress, the USDA finally brought a case against chinchilla dealer Daniel Moulton. His license was revoked—but the animals remain in his possession. In two years as a licensed dog breeder, Daniel Gingerich amassed an unprecedented number of citations for horrific animal mistreatment, denying inspectors access, and concealing animals. Finally, after incomprehensible delays, the USDA referred the case to the Department of Justice and Gingerich was forced to surrender over 500 dogs. In May, a botched Horse Protection Act complaint and subsequent cover-up ended with a repeat offender skating free.

It is up to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service administrator, its Animal Care officials, and its general counsel to act with all due urgency on inspectors’ disturbing reports of cruelty, to seize animals in need of rescue, and to ensure that such appalling mistreatment doesn’t continue. AWI has long documented the USDA’s inexcusable failure to enforce the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. The situation, however, has reached a tipping point. The USDA has allowed immense, avoidable suffering of untold numbers of animals. Congress must demand accountability. If that doesn’t work, we must look for another federal agency to ensure animal welfare.

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