As of Feb. 3, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has removed Horse Protection Act (HPA) inspection reports from its website.
APHIS enforces the HPA, which forbids soring, and certifies groups and individuals that carry out HPA compliance inspections on horses at shows.
In a written statement, APHIS said it has “implemented actions to remove certain personal information from documents it posts on (its) website involving the Horse Protection Act.
“Going forward, APHIS will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” the statement said.
The agency will also review “and redact, as necessary, the lists of designated qualified persons licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations” to perform compliance inspections.
The statement said individuals seeking information from APHIS about inspection reports and enforcement-related matters must submit a Freedom of Information Act request.
The statement said the decision was the result of a year-long review of APHIS information posted on its website for the general public’s viewing. The APHIS statement said the agency intended to balance the public’s right to know with individuals’ rights to privacy.
Even so, the decision raised the ire of some equine welfare advocates, including Teresa Bippen, president of Friends of Sound Horses.
“The removal of the USDA animal welfare information from the USDA’s website was deeply disappointing,” Bippen said. “We hope the (Trump) administration quickly realizes that transparency best serves the interests of the public even if it is detrimental to those individuals with multiple Horse Protection Act violations.”
Mike Inman, chief executive officer of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, declined to comment.