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Peter D.
Democrat OR 4

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  • Wildlife Services Investigation Request and Agency Response

    by Representative Peter A. DeFazio

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    DeFAZIO of oregon in the house of representatives Tuesday, March 12, 2013 Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, on November 30, 2012 I sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack, requesting an investigation into Wildlife Services and the conduct of its employees. Mr. Vilsack responded to my letter on February 1, 2013 and my office received this letter on February 13, 2013. I intend to monitor this situation closely and look forward to seeing the results of the internal investigation that is currently taking place of WS employees and their compliance with state and federal anti-cruelty and animal protection laws.

    November 30, 2012.

    Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.

    Dear Secretary Vilsack: We are writing to request a thorough audit of Wildlife Services, especially its lethal predator control program, by the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the culture within Wildlife Services.

    As you know, recent news reports indicate that Jamie P. Olson, a Wildlife Services employee working in Wyoming, may have apparently committed acts of animal cruelty that appear to violate Wildlife Services' Directives and Wyoming state law. If it is found that Mr. Olson committed these acts, it would bring disrepute to the Wildlife Services' program and the federal government at a time when Wildlife Services, and in particular its lethal control of predators to protect livestock, labors under heavy criticism for unnecessarily killing wild animals and lacking transparency and accountability. We urge you to be thorough in your investigation because these alleged acts clearly violate standards of human decency.

    However, we are gravely concerned that photographs, published on Mr. Olson's Facebook in an album labeled ``work'' and since removed, do not represent an isolated occurrence, but may reflect a deep-rooted problem within the Wildlife Services program that allows for, and encourages, inhumane lethal methods of predator control. According to a recent Sacramento Bee article, Gary Strader, a former Wildlife Services trapper in Nevada, ``was not surprised to learn about the controversial photos. 'That is very common,' Strader wrote in an email.'' (Toni Knudson, U.S. wildlife worker's online photos of animal abuse stir outrage. Sacramento Bee, Friday, November 2, 2012).

    We look forward to seeing the results of your investigation, and thank you for your attention in this important matter.

    Sincerely, John Campbell, Member of Congress.

    Peter DeFazio, Member of Congress.

    ____ U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Secretary, Washington, DC, Feb. 1, 2013.

    Hon. Peter DeFazio, U.S. House of Representatives, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.

    Dear Congressman DeFazio: Thank you for your letter of November 30, 2012, regarding allegations of animal cruelty by an employee with the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services (WS) program. I apologize for the delayed response.

    I, and other USDA officials, take this matter very seriously. USDA does not condone any form of animal cruelty and holds all employees responsible for adhering to Departmental and Agency standards and directives. WS personnel are expected to use approved and humane methods to euthanize captured or restrained animals whenever practicable, and in accordance with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines. WS employees are also required to comply at all times with applicable State and Federal laws.

    [[Page E278]] At this time, the Administrative Investigations and Compliance Branch (AICB) of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is engaged in an ongoing investigation of this matter. In response to a previous request to initiate an investigation into these allegations, USDA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has deferred to AICB's active investigation. However, OIG officials have requested that AICB report its findings to them once the investigation has been finalized. In the meantime, WS officials are also taking this opportunity to reaffirm to program staff their ethical obligation to uphold professional standards and their responsibilities to the American public.

    I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns. I assure you that USDA remains steadfast in its commitment to responsible oversight and stewardship with regard to the WS program. I am sending a similar letter to Congressman Campbell.

    Sincerely, Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary.

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