Generally, Animal Care (AC) ensures regulatory compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (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.
In some circumstances where an individual and/or business is found to not be in compliance with the AWA, APHIS may take action in addition to inspections to promote compliance, including issuing a Letter of Information or an Official Warning Letter. A Letter of Information is an informal warning letter documenting that AWA noncompliance was found and advising an individual and/or business that more stringent action may be taken if they remain noncompliant. An Official Warning Letter is an official warning of an alleged violation of the AWA. It provides notice to an individual and/or business that the Agency may seek a civil or criminal penalty if noncompliance is found in the future.
APHIS' Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) personnel investigate alleged violations when licensees or registrants have not taken corrective measures to come into compliance with the AWA, individuals and/or businesses are conducting regulated activity without a license or without being registered with USDA, or the noncompliance presents (or presented) a direct risk to the health and well-being of the animals involved. IES investigations may lead to the issuance of a regulatory compliance or enforcement action. For more information on the investigative and enforcement process, as well as on what actions may be taken to enforce the AWA, please visit IES’ website.