The Alliance sent a warning this week to USDA inspectors and their supervisors, including Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, advising that current rules and policies regarding the documentation of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act appear to be a violation of federal criminal law.
Often times, when USDA inspectors identify violations, the inspectors attempt to cover-up the violations by not citing them on the official inspection report. Rather, the violations are documented on separate forms such as "teachable moments" or "self-reporting", or in their field notes. The inspector then makes the following notation on the official inspection report: "No non-compliant items identified during this inspection."
The Alliance notified USDA inspectors that federal law 18. U.S. Code
§ 1001 specifies that it is a
criminal offense to falsify a federal document or conceal any material fact
a crime punishable by up to five years in prison
. It could therefore be deemed a criminal offense every time a USDA inspector documents on a federal inspection report that there are “no non-compliant items” at a puppy mill or other animal facility when the inspector knows full well that there are violations at the facility, and in fact, documents such violations separate from the inspection report.
USDA has ordered inspectors to reduce their write-ups of dog breeders and instead call violations, “teachable moments” or consider them “self-reporting” violations or simply ignore minor violations and even to disregard veterinary care issues such as problems with teeth, ears and eyes. USDA inspectors have been instructed to document these violations on a separate form or in their field notes but to deny any such violations on the official inspection report.
Instead of addressing abuses in the industry and initiating effective enforcement measures to ensure the health and welfare of dogs in commercial breeding operations, USDA has chosen to
cover-up the industry’s wrong-doings
. USDA is doing so in an effort to present a false narrative of the commercial dog breeding business for the sole purpose of protecting the economic interest of substandard dog breeders. USDA has been aiding and abetting cruel puppy mills for several years and has defended its actions by arguing that
“we need to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores…[and] citing violations is an impediment to such sales.”