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USDA AUDIT ADMITS AGENCY NOT PROTECTING PUPPY MILL PUPPIES, HSUS SAYS

USDA AUDIT ADMITS AGENCY NOT PROTECTING PUPPY MILL PUPPIES, HSUS SAYS
 WASHINGTON, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The federal watchdog agency charged with looking out for puppy mill dogs is not enforcing the nation's key animal protection law, The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report obtained by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The audit was inspired by HSUS puppy mills investigations.
 "This report validates what The HSUS has long known -- the government is completely unable to cope with the demands of policing puppy mills," said Paul G. Irwin, HSUS president. "These poor animals are left vulnerable to the puppy mill system's worst abuses."
 The report, instigated after media reports highlighting HSUS puppy mill investigations, issues a stinging indictment of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) ability to enforce The Animal Welfare Act.
 "Our audit concluded that APHIS cannot ensure the human care and treatment of animals at all dealer facilities as required by the act," the report summary said. The USDA audit focused primarily on breeders and dealers, such as puppy mills.
 The audit, obtained by The HSUS through the Freedom of Information Act, covered facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin during 1990 and 1991. Of the 284 facilities reviewed, more than 16 percent were not given an annual inspection at all. Another 80.8 percent that were in violation of the act were never given a follow up inspection. And 23 percent of the inspected facilities had repeat violations, including inadequate veterinary care and insufficient living space which, the report said, "jeopardized the health and well-being of the animals."
 The USDA internal audit said that APHIS does not have an effective monitoring system, nor does it have formal procedures which set the frequency of inspections. The report also said that APHIS regulations about inventorying animals were not being followed. And, the report said, of the 284 facility inspections, 49 licenses were renewed even though they had outstanding AWA violations. The report concluded that APHIS was expecting too few qualified inspectors to do too much -- in fact, the report says, APHIS' 68 inspectors would have to conduct 15,700 inspections a year.
 "We're calling for a congressional oversight hearing," Irwin said. "The USDA should be called to account for its slipshod methods and the animals who have suffered as a result. We hope that the hearing can put some muscle into a law that the USDA has allowed to grow soft by not exercising its authority," Irwin said.
 Among the report's other findings:
 -- At least 77 percent of all licensed facilities visited were found to be in violation of the AWA, and 87 percent of all facilities were in violation.
 -- In the state of Missouri, 85.6 percent of animal dealer inspections showed violations of the AWA.
 -- Facilities repeatedly violating the AWA were not given timely penalties. Of 30 violating facilities reviewed, seven had not corrected violations cited during three or more inspections. These facilities were allowed to retain their licenses.
 -0- 6/22/92
 /CONTACT: Helen L. Mitternight of The Humane Society of the United States, 202-452-1100/ CO: The Humane Society of the United States ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


KD -- DC017 -- 2385 06/22/92 12:02 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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