The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. The AWA is enforced by APHIS Animal Care (AC) program and the Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) unit of APHIS Marketing and Regulatory Programs-Business Services program.
The following provides further information regarding APHIS action plan to improve ACs regulation of dog dealersparticularly those who are repeat offendersand respond to the 14 audit recommendations issued in May 2010 by USDAs Office of the Inspector General (OIG). APHIS plans to post this information on APHIS Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov in the near future. Overall, the action plan includes: a shift from an education focus for problematic dealers to an enforcement focus, improved inspector performance, and regulation of the Internet sale of dogs. Some of the actions were instituted before the OIG audit was issued.
On the enforcement front, in the past 2 years APHIS has more than doubled the number of AC investigations initiated, from 406 in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to 874 in FY 2010. As of February 25, 2011, APHIS had 202 open AWA investigations involving dog dealers. Of those, 113 are open investigations at the field level, and 89 are completed investigations that are pending review for appropriate enforcement action.
Moreover, since the OIG issued its audit report and as of May 31, 2011, APHIS has initiated 277 enforcement actions involving dog dealers. Of these actions, 254 were official warnings, 8 were monetary stipulations, 9 were stipulations wherein the licensee agreed to the revocation of his/her license and 6 involved formal administrative decisions and orders. In accordance with OIGs recommendation, APHIS has also increased the average paid monetary stipulation from $3,713 (per the OIG audit) to $10,178 as of May 31, 2011. These activities illustrate APHIS commitment to moving more swiftly, consistently, and effectively in responding to animal welfare violations.
Immediate Actions: (Completed)
Develop Inspection Requirements. This action will improve consistency in AC inspectors approach for inspections.
Comments: Guidance given to AC employees April 19, 2010, during National Meeting.
Comments: Document distributed April 19, 2010, during National Meeting; also, document loaded on all inspectors computers for their reference, and part of orientation for new employees.
Intermediate Actions (Within 6 Months)
Improve citation and documentation of violations: This action will lead to AC conducting stronger investigations and increase the likelihood of successful enforcement actions.
Comments: AC Regional Offices are providing information to impacted States as well as sharing information with all inspectors through weekly e-mail updates. Management has met face to face with inspectors in the major kennel areas.
Comments: Training conducted during the April 19, 2010, National Meeting. Also, information on citing and documenting violations is included in Inspection Requirements Document. AC and IES held joint training in September, 2010 for new inspectors and investigators. AC will continue training during future mini-meetings, webinars and ride-along activities.
Develop a plan for improving enforcement: This will result in quicker, more consistent action against those in violation of the AWA.
Comments: APHIS realigned IES by creating an Animal Health and Welfare Branch in January 2010.
Comments: An inspection guidance document was loaded on all inspectors computers and discussed during the National Meeting on April 19, 2010. A guidance document, providing further clarification, was developed by AC and coordinated with IES in September 2010.
Comments: Standard Operating Procedures are in place as of July 2010.
Comments: Information was also included in the Inspection Requirements Handbook provided to all inspectors during the April 19, 2010, National Meeting. Continued emphasis through education and supervisory review will be ongoing.
Comments: AC conducts a quarterly update review, and IES continually prioritizes and monitors investigations and enforcement actions.
Comments: AC has reviewed all AWA investigations for several years.
Comments: IES has ongoing review for referral.
Comments: Terms were clarified during the National Meeting on April 19, 2010. Further documentation was sent to inspectors in May 2010. A list of direct violations was developed so inspectors can be consistent with how they cite violations. In addition, clarifications have been incorporated into the Consolidated Inspection Guides.
Comments: The Kennel Specialist started with AC on October 11, 2010.
Comments: System in test phase. Coordination with IES to take place.
Comments: Iowa State refined final version prior to release.
Comments: One of ACs objectives and ongoing activities is to build partnerships. AC held forum with States and Tribes to discuss strategic collaborative strategies for improving the welfare of animals in kennels. Continue to hold Canine Care Workshops. Held or are holding individual State/Federal collaborative meetings with the following states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
Comments: Exploring Continuing Education credits for educational courses held through the Center for Animal Welfare.
Comments: AC Management has met with Pet Breeder Associations from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma. Working to develop a program where brokers will not purchase from facilities with direct violations.
Establish a new table of penalties to increase penalties. This action will provide a greater deterrent to violating the AWA.
Comments: Penalty guideline table updated in July 2010.
Comments: Analysis plan has been developed and data gathering is in process.
Comments: Headquarters National Enforcement Coordinator Position filled in January 2011. Will work with IES Animal Health and Welfare Branch Chief.
Publicize violations of the AWA. This action will provide a greater deterrent to violating the AWA.
Comments: First press release issued in June 2010. Subsequent releases are issued monthly.
Improve supervision of inspectors. This will provide greater oversight of inspectors, who are isolated from their supervisors, resulting in more consistent inspector performance.
Comments: Initially completed in April 2010. Resources and workload are reassessed continually.
Comments: Evaluation of supervisory structure completed April 2010. Placed a supervisor in Ohio. In process of hiring supervisors in Iowa and Nebraska.
Comments: Completed June 30, 2010, ongoing.
Comments: Completed July 31, 2010, ongoing
Comments: Completed July 31, 2010, ongoing.
Comments: Ongoing activity.
Comments: Standard Operating Procedure completed. Reviews are ongoing.
Comments: Webinar in April 2011 focused on enforcement actions. Continual ongoing feedback will be sought as available.
Comments: National Enforcement Coordinator at Headquarters and Regional Enforcement and Compliance Specialist in the Western Region started in January 2011. Currently recruiting the Regional Enforcement and Compliance Specialist for the Eastern Region.
Improve the quality of inspections. This action will lead to greater consistency in inspections and increased accountability for inspectors.
Comments: Completed during National Meeting, April 19, 2010.
Comments: Completed during National Meeting, April 19, 2010.
Comments: Consolidated Guidelines were sent to the inspectors and released to the public in April 2011. Guidelines may be found on Animal Care web page.
Comments: Hired three of nine Compliance Specialist positions in March 2011. Other positions have been submitted with request for necessary funding.
Comments: Modification is on hold pending acquiring the necessary resources to implement RBIS revision.
Comments: Implementation is constrained based on available resources. Exceptions are based on risk analysis.
Comments: Standard Operating Procedures are in place. Process implemented in September 2010 and is ongoing.
Longer Term Actions:
Implement an improved training program for AC employees. The result of this program will improve inspector performance, accountability, and consistency of inspections.
Comments: Training completed in June 2010. Annual training required for all supervisors.
Comments: First wave of new hires training completed September 2010.
Comments: Training completed during National Meeting, April 19, 2010. Ongoing emphasis throughout the year.
Comments: Needs assessment and supervisory training are ongoing. A 360 assessment for supervisors has been scheduled.
Comments: Standard Operating Procedures are in place for inspectors.
Comments: Process is completed.
Comments: Process will focus implementation for new Supervisory Animal Care Specialists.
Develop regulations regarding Internet sales. This will transpire once legislation is passed to close a loophole in the law and enable APHIS to regulate this area of the industry.
Comments: USDA has determined that it has legislative authority to regulate Internet sales. A proposed rule will be submitted for departmental clearance in spring 2011 and published in the Federal Register for public comment in fall 2011.