A group of U.S. Senators have signed a letter asking the USDA to restore animal cruelty law violation records to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website.

Earlier this month, APHIS announced it would remove certain personal information from documents it posts on its website, including information about Horse Protection Act (HPA) and Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. The agency enforces the HPA, which forbids soring. The agency also said it would review and redact, as necessary, the lists of designated qualified persons (who carry out HPA compliance inspections) licensed by USDA-certified horse industry organizations.

Individuals seeking information from APHIS about inspection reports and enforcement-related matters would have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request., the agency said.

The decision to remove the information from its website was the result of a comprehensive review of information posted on the APHIS website, the agency said. Since APHIS’ announcement, several animal welfare organizations have called on the USDA to restore the information on grounds that its vital to public interest.

On Feb. 13, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and 17 of his colleagues submitted a letter to USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young asking him to restore HPA and AWA information to the APHIS website on grounds that the public has the right to know if federal law has been violated and by whom.

“Public access to information can guide consumer decision making and plays an important role in deterring regulated entities from violating the law,” the letter said. “For instance, spectators at horse shows will no longer know if a specific horse trainer has a history of HPA violation.”

The letter said the lack of HPA and AWA documents “not only undermines the effectiveness of these federal laws, but also interferes with state and local laws meant to protect animals and consumers.”

Tanya Espinosa, APHIS specialist for legislative and public affairs, said the agency “will respond directly to those who submitted the letter.”