Privacy Concerns Prompt Federal Government Action
On October 24, the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released a notice of proposed modifications to its Animal Care Inspection Service database, along with a discussion of federal privacy laws governing use of records, and the routine use of existing records.
Click here to view AKC’s October 25 APHIS informational post.
Click here to view APHIS’ federal register notice.
The notice formally expands the categories of individuals who participate in activities related to the Animal Welfare Act or who are otherwise identified in AWA-related records, adds records types, and updates APHIS’ records management practices. This includes what information may be publicly available, including the name, city, state, license or registration type or status, of any person licensed under the AWA. APHIS may also disclose licensees’ annual reports, inspection reports, and other regulatory correspondence to any attending veterinarian or other appropriate Federal, foreign, State, local, Tribal, or public authority. APHIS may also disclose final adjudicatory AWA decisions or orders by an appropriate authority to any person. These changes, which AKC supports, do not represent significant changes to current public reporting practices.
In July 2016, prompted by litigation surrounding the publication of information on non-finally-adjudicated violations and privacy concerns, APHIS formally initiated a comprehensive review and update of its Animal Care Information System (ACIS). To eliminate out-of-date content, improve the information provided, and balance its commitment to transparency with applicable laws, including rules protecting personal privacy, APHIS’ website, publications, and correspondence were reviewed; and resulted in the removal of information considered private from APHIS’s website.
Opposition to Privacy Protections
Since that time some groups have pushed Congress for removal of these privacy protections. Several months ago, a last-minute amendment was made to section 760 of the 2020 House Agriculture Appropriations bill that would require the USDA to make privately identifiable information about licensed breeders, including home addresses, pet inventories, and other sensitive information, available to the public online. A similar measure that was proposed for the Senate version of the 2020 appropriations bill failed. However, the measure could still be picked up in conference.