Courts ponder how public animal reports must be

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Science  26 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6340, pp. 790-791
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6340.790-b

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February removed tens of thousands of Animal Welfare Act oversight records from public databases, citing concern for the privacy of individuals named in the documents. Now, animal welfare organizations are suing the agency in two U.S. courts, demanding that the inspection reports, warning letters, and other enforcement documents be restored to public view. The lawsuits, in district courts in San Francisco, California, and Washington, D.C., highlight the tension between the competing demands of privacy and transparency in the internet age. As they proceed, USDA has already restored to view documents on most research facilities that use animals. But the vast majority of inspection reports and enforcement documents for the breeders and dealers that supply research labs remain hidden.