The Federal Government plays a key role in ensuring that animals covered under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act and used in regulated activities are provided humane care and treatment. The Federal responsibility for this important work rests with the Animal Care program, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As USDA's guardian of animal welfare, Animal Care makes sure that proper care is provided to most warm-blooded animals used in research or exhibition, sold for use as pets, or transported in commerce.
Under the Horse Protection Act, Animal Care works to prevent the practice of "soring." Soring is a procedure that entails applying chemical or mechanical irritants to a horse's pastern to enhance its gaitÑa practice typically used on certain gaited horses as a cruel shortcut to proper training.
The Animal Care program employs professionals with a range of scientific, technical, and administrative skills to accomplish its mission and facilitate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. These professionals are veterinarians, animal care inspectors, computer specialists, program specialists, and other administrative and program support personnel.
Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act is accomplished by field-based employees who are strategically located throughout the 50 States and Territories. They are either veterinary medical officers (VMOs) or Animal Care inspectors (ACIs). Some specialize in the care of various species or in the areas of nutrition, research, or transportation. All VMOs are graduates of a veterinary medical college, and many have been private-practice veterinarians prior to joining Animal Care. ACIs have education in the biological sciences and/or extensive experience in the care and handling of animals.