Demanding Records Related to Puerto Rico Zoo’s Terminated License
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to compel answers to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, for information about the termination of Puerto Rico’s zoo’s Exhibitor License under the Animal Welfare Act.
APHIS produced documents on July 24, 2019
The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), seeking records regarding the termination of Puerto Rico’s only official zoo’s Exhibitor’s License under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The lawsuit was filed one-year from the due date of APHIS’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) response.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has long advocated for federal and local agencies to investigate the Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and to revoke the zoo’s permits. The animals held captive at this zoo are subject to cruel and inhumane conditions, and federal inspection reports reveal repeated violations of the AWA.
Numerous animals have died in recent years due to poor sanitation, inadequate veterinary care, filthy enclosures and untrained staff. The zoo also chronically fails to provide adequate care to members of threatened and endangered species, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
According to APHIS’ online database, as of February 2018 the zoo no longer held an Animal Welfare Act license. Despite this, the zoo has illegally continued to exhibit animals, and has allowed members of the public to view and interact with animals. Photos and firsthand accounts from visitors indicate that conditions at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park remain unsanitary and unsafe, and violate the regulations and standards of the AWA.
On March 7, 2018, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with APHIS, for information about whether APHIS took action to suspend, revoke or terminate the Zoo’s license. Under FOIA, the agency’s response was due on April 4, 2018.
Who is being sued, why, and under what law? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, for failing to meet its Freedom of Information Act obligations.
What court is the lawsuit filed in? U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Why this case is important: Laws are only as powerful as their level of enforcement. It is vital to know what led to the termination of Puerto Rico’s zoo’s Exhibitor License. The zoo is operating as an unlawful enterprise where animals are not safe. Transparency is critical in order to protect the zoo’s 300+ animals.
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