May 16, 2019

Who’s to Blame for This Frenchie’s Suffering?

At first glance, Bessie looks as cute and cuddly as any other French Bulldog in the neighborhood or online. But her reality is far from carefree. 

Bessie is not a pet; she lives in a commercial breeding facility (a.k.a. puppy mill) and her only job is to breed puppies until her body gives out. We received Bessie’s photos via an inspection records request we made to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency tasked with licensing and monitoring commercial breeders.

During a routine inspection late last year, the USDA inspector took photos and video to document a 2-3 inch gaping wound on Bessie’s neck. The breeder said she had not previously noticed the wound, so Bessie had not received any medical care. It’s impossible to know how long Bessie had been suffering from the oozing wound, but based on the inspector’s observation of her thinness, it’s likely she had not been examined recently.

Every month, the ASPCA requests inspection records to find out what enforcement actions the USDA takes when it discovers an animal welfare violation. Heavily blacked-out reports trickle in months or years later, and in many cases, there is no response at all. The agency has made it nearly impossible to connect the minimal information it does share to a specific facility; that means we can’t see whether the agency has taken action against a violator or check to see if the animals who need care receive it. The USDA has taken the position that puppy mill privacy outweighs the public’s right to know about animal welfare violations.

Bessie is not alone. She and thousands of other dogs suffer day after day in commercial breeding facilities, but it remains impossible to find out what USDA is doing about it. Last month, the ASPCA sued the USDA for its failure to respond to nearly 40 requests for records, including ones that would tell us which actions—if any—the agency took against Bessie’s owner. This is the second lawsuit we have brought against the USDA since 2017; both are pending in federal court.

Why is the USDA protecting cruel breeders over the animals and public it is entrusted to protect? Please sign our petition demanding the agency give back full, public access to this lifesaving information.