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Animal Welfare

AWA Enforcement Information

 
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AC enforces the AWA primarily through the use of inspections.  Our inspectors conduct unannounced visits to licensed or registered facilities, where they review all areas of care and treatment covered under the law.  If we find deficiencies in a facility’s compliance with the law, we typically give the facility a date by which to correct those items. 

Elephant

APHIS’ Investigative and Enforcement Services personnel investigate alleged violations when licensees or registrants have not taken corrective measures to come into compliance with the AWA.   If an investigation leads to AWA enforcement action, APHIS will review and consider all probative, reliable, and properly authenticated evidence that is relevant and material to the allegations. 

Investigations that reveal AWA violations are acted on in a variety of ways, depending on their severity.  Many infractions can be settled with an official notice of warning or a stipulation offer. Official letters of warning notify a licensee or registrant that further infractions can result in more stringent enforcement action.  Stipulations allow alleged violators to pay a penalty in lieu of formal administrative proceedings. 

In cases of serious or chronic violations, consequences become more substantial.  Cases warranting formal prosecution undergo Department-level review for legal sufficiency prior to issuance of a formal administrative complaint.  Formal cases may be resolved by license suspensions, revocations, cease-and-desist orders, civil penalties, or combinations of these penalties through administrative procedures.

The High-Priority Designation

 
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When a case is designated as “high-priority,” AC, IES, and USDA’s Office of the General Counsel put special emphasis on the investigation and enforcement of a case to expedite its resolution.  This measure has proven successful in shortening the timeframes of significant cases and providing quicker relief for animals protected under the AWA.  AC and IES continue to use the high-priority designation in the pursuit of certain cases.

Cases are deemed high-priority based on the following criteria:

•Severity of animal suffering (death or severe injury),
•Past compliance history of facility,
•Potential public or animal safety or health concerns,
•Abusive or potentially violent nature of licensee or registrant,
•Type of facility and species of animal involved, and;
•Severity of the issue resulting in extensive public interest.

Enforcement Actions

 
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FY 2008-2009

In FY 2008, APHIS imposed animal welfare-related penalties totaling more than $1 million. In FY 2009, APHIS imposed animal welfare-related penalties totaling more than $400,000.

The next table provides detailed information on the number of animal welfare and horse protection enforcement actions conducted and resolved during FYs 2005–2009. It should be noted that not all cases are submitted and settled during the same fiscal year; a case can take considerable time to work its way through the legal system and appeals process.

FY

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

Cases

613

406

486

480

575

IES Review

358

221

303

249

391

Warnings

433

264

192

283

219

Stipulations

49

65

75

95

87

Submitted to OGC

43

133

73

80

76

ALJ Decisions

68

73

77

96

82

No Violations

10

24

24

53

208

Submitted Externally/Penalty

48

26

84

24

11

Stipulations Paid

$117,609

$158,940

$263,200

$263,596

$160,184

Civil Penalty

$414,050

$1,099,782

$614,132

$644,220

$946,184


Cases—Number of cases investigated
IES Review—Number of cases received by IES for review
Warnings—Number of letters of warning issued
Stipulations—Number of cases closed with a stipulation paid
Complaints—Number of formal complaints sent by APHIS and USDA’s OGC to USDA’s Administrative Law Court
ALJ Decisions—Number of formal decisions from Administrative Law Judges
No Violations—Number of cases closed with no violations found or insufficient evidence to pursue enforcement action
Stipulations Paid—Amount of money collected as a result of stipulation agreements
Civil Penalty—Total amount of money collected as a result of Administrative Law Judge Decisions

 

 

 

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