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The United States Department of Agriculture has taken down thousands of records from its website with information about how animals are treated
The move prevents Animal Care and Control from making sure pet stores follow an ordinance cracking down on puppy mill breeders.
With one click on the USDA's website, you used to be able to look up animal breeders and check their history and inspection reports. Now, the federal government has removed that online database.
"It really curbs and actually stops the ability to monitor what's going on with these breeders," explained Diane Sauve, the director of Animal Care & Control in Palm Beach County.
Sauve says her office used the website daily to make sure pet stores were not buying pups from breeders with major violations and from puppy mills
"That information was very critical to us ensuring that puppies are not coming in here from inhumane businesses," said Sauve.
That system of checks and balances is part of a county ordinance also requiring pet shop owners to check breeders for possible violations. With the site deactivated, the county can no longer enforce the ordinance.
"It may mean we have to look for another ordinance, for another way to address this problem," said Shannon Fox, the assistant county attorney for Palm Beach County.
The USDA cites breeders' privacy concerns in removing the documents.
Now, inspection reports and other records must be requested through a public records request, which could take weeks if not months to fill.
The county is looking into drafting a new ordinance to oversee pet stores.
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