SILVER SPRING, MD--(Marketwired - February 06, 2017) - Without prior notice late last week, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) abruptly removed animal welfare inspection reports from its website. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which accredits the world's best, and most visited zoos and aquariums, disagrees with USDA's decision, which makes this important information harder, not easier, for the public to obtain.
"When the Department of Agriculture decided to take all animal welfare inspection reports offline, 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 The Honorable Dan Ashe, President and CEO of the AZA. "AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos pride themselves in not only adhering to, but also in exceeding, the Animal Welfare Act and its regulations. AZA accreditation requires the very highest standards in animal care, and has earned the public's trust and confidence, as reflected by the more than 186 million annual visits to AZA member facilities. This trust and confidence is eroded by efforts that are seemingly intended to shield information from public view."
AZA represents 232 of the world's best and most visited aquariums and zoos. In addition to the regulations enforced by APHIS under the Animal Welfare Act, AZA members may also be subject to the regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act, and all applicable state and local animal welfare laws. In addition to complying with government regulations, AZA members are required to follow all AZA accreditation standards and can be inspected at any time.
"Public disclosure of relevant animal care and welfare information represents our license to operate and is essential for ensuring the public's trust and confidence in our profession, enabling the public to distinguish the best animal care facilities from poorly run breeding farms and roadside zoos and menageries," continued Ashe. "AZA urges USDA to reconsider this decision, and believes all legitimate accrediting organizations should join us in this request."
More information about AZA's rigorous accreditation process, including a full listing of its members and standards, can be found online at: http://www.aza.org/accreditation.
Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.