U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, Thursday introduced legislation in Congress that would require Wildlife Services, an obscure arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to disclose far more about the millions of animals it kills across the country than it does today.
Wildlife Services, which has killed 18,700 animals in San Diego County since 2005, works in secrecy. It doesn’t allow reporters to watch its trappers in action and it hasn’t promptly released numerous public documents about the animals it’s killed here, despite a formal request we filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act. When I asked for a database of kills it maintains, two of its employees laughed out loud at my request.
The agency posts limited information online about its operations, reporting the number and type of species it kills in each state as well as how the animals were killed. But it doesn’t explain why it killed animals or in what counties or cities it occurred.
Davis’ bill, the Transparency for Lethal Control Act, would require Wildlife Services to annually report how many animals it kills in each municipality in the country, as well as the method used to kill them. It would also require Wildlife Services to explain the reasons that each species posed a threat and why killing was necessary.
Davis, a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, cited the problems we’ve encountered getting that basic information from Wildlife Services and said in a statement that vigorous public review is needed to ensure that killing isn’t the government’s routine, reflexive response.