New Audit Shines a Light on Major Deficiencies in the USDA’s Oversight of Dog DealersASPCA condemns agency’s continued failure to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities
WASHINGTON, DC – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today condemned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its failure to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) – the agency’s internal watchdog – released a long overdue audit aimed at investigating the USDA’s lack of oversight of commercial dog breeders. Due to COVID-19, the OIG was unable to meet its objective of evaluating breeder compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), but they identified serious problems with USDA oversight, including its failure to accurately report such basic information as the number of inspections the agency conducted or how many facilities the agency licenses. The audit also revealed that USDA has failed to respond to complaints against commercial breeders, resulting in the agency’s inability to ensure the health and humane treatment of animals at these facilities.
This report echoes failures documented in a scathing 2010 OIG audit that found the USDA’s enforcement process was woefully inadequate in enforcing the law with problematic dog dealers, and detailed how inspectors failed to sufficiently document violations. Following a brief commitment to strengthen enforcement, the number of reported violations has declined significantly. Despite overwhelming evidence of cruelty, the USDA has not revoked a license or imposed a penalty against any of the thousands of commercial breeders and dealers licensed by the agency since 2017.
“This report confirms our ongoing concerns that the USDA is asleep on the job and dogs are suffering because of it,” said Ingrid Seggerman, ASPCA director of regulatory policy. “The USDA has demonstrated time and time again that the agency is unable or unwilling to fulfill its most basic responsibility to ensure the humane care of dogs, and we call on the Biden administration to direct the agency to do their job, inspect these facilities, document violations and hold dog breeders accountable when they violate the law. Dogs and people are depending on this agency and we cannot stand by and watch them fail.”
The latest audit revealed an even more alarming pattern of significant and fundamental flaws with the agency’s oversight. The OIG identified data “reliability issues” with information provided by USDA to auditors, and USDA was unable to produce consistent reports when asked for the number of inspections the agency conducted. The audit also shows that the agency was creating reports “by hand.” The OIG concluded that the lack of a reliable information system used to: 1) report inspection statistics to Congress, 2) track active licensees, registrants, and non-compliant inspection reports, 3) document facility inspections, and 4) maintain licensee and registrant information impedes the agency’s “ability to make informed management decisions.”
Additionally, the audit found the agency did not have any official process for responding to complaints made against commercial breeders and dealers, or for recording the results of the agency’s follow-up. This flawed complaint process means that the agency is willfully ignoring opportunities to investigate instances of animal cruelty and prevent illicit puppy mills from conducting regulated activity without a USDA license or oversight. Therefore, the USDA is unable to ensure the overall health and humane treatment of animals at these facilities.
The ASPCA recently filed a lawsuit against the USDA for abandoning its responsibility to enforce the AWA – a federal law passed more than 50 years ago to ensure the humane treatment and care of commercially bred dogs. To take a stand against the USDA’s inaction, the ASPCA also launched a petition calling on President Biden to direct the USDA to do its job and hold dog dealers accountable when they violate the law.
For more information or to sign the ASPCA’s petition demanding action, please visit www.aspca.org/wakeupusda.