Letters to the Editor

Zoo Miami joins protest over USDA’s purging of inspection reports

Ron Magill, Director of Comunications and Media Relations at Zoo Miami
Ron Magill, Director of Comunications and Media Relations at Zoo Miami rkoltun@miamiherald.com

On Feb. 3, in a decision that came with no prior notice or warning, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) abruptly removed from its website, animal welfare inspection reports and other information about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, animal breeding operations, circuses, and roadside attractions — as well as zoos.

In doing so, they have made it more difficult for the public to access records that could better inform them as to the practices of licensees with regard to their standards of animal care and welfare.

Zoo Miami joins with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in opposing this decision and hopes the USDA and APHIS will reconsider and reverse it.

“When the Department of Agriculture decided to take all animal welfare inspection reports off line, there is no doubt some APHIS licensees were very happy: Those who have no desire for the public to know about their animal welfare record,” said Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the AZA.

As one of 232 AZA accredited institutions, Zoo Miami takes pride in not only meeting, but often exceeding the standards and regulations set forth by the Animal Welfare Act for the animals under our care. We depend partly on those inspection reports being easily accessible to the public to help distinguish us from those roadside attractions and animal menageries that often maintain animals in substandard conditions or worse.

This decision by the USDA and APHIS erodes the public’s trust and confidence in legitimate and respectable institutions such as Zoo Miami, while providing a shield of secrecy for those who may be trying to avoid scrutiny for non-compliance in meeting the basic standards for animal welfare.

Ron Magill, Zoo Miami communications director