WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Humane Society of the United States and the USDA have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over access to annual reports of facilities conducting animal research. The HSUS filed the case in federal court in January 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act.
The lawsuit alleged that the USDA violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide The HSUS with numerous reports required by the Animal Welfare Act concerning painful animal experiments conducted without anesthetics or other pain or distress relief measures. The suit also sought to compel the USDA to make annual Animal Welfare Act-mandated animal research facility reports available online.
Pursuant to the settlement agreement signed by the parties today, all of the annual reports, including pain and distress information, will be made available to the public electronically and in a timely manner. USDA will also have to indicate on its website which facilities did not submit annual reports, and therefore failed to abide by the Animal Welfare Act. The HSUS expressed its gratitude to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for providing greater transparency about what is happening to animals at research facilities across the nation.
"The public has a right to know whether the USDA is properly enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and whether research institutions are abiding by the law," said Kathleen Conlee, director of program management for animal research issues for The HSUS. "While it became apparent during the suit that the USDA might be acting to shield animal research facilities from public scrutiny, we are pleased that the settlement will ensure public access to animal research information, and shed light on whether USDA is doing its job."
Reports released to The HSUS prior to the settlement describing procedures that caused unrelieved animal pain and distress had large amounts of information redacted. In some cases entire pages were omitted. As a result of this settlement, the USDA has agreed to provide those reports to The HSUS with more information so that the public will have more information about the procedures used and the scientific justification for the unrelieved pain and distress that some animals experienced.
The settlement will be submitted to the federal district court for the District of Columbia today for final approval. The HSUS is represented by the public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.
About the Animal Welfare Act and research
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization.
SOURCE: The Humane Society of the United States.