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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
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USDA Proposes to Implement Contingency Planning Regulations for the Handling of Animals During Emergencies


Andre Bell –
Lyndsay Cole –

Washington, D.C., June 24, 2021 -- The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing to amend the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to implement a requirement for contingency plans for the handling of animals during emergencies. This would lift a stay on a December 2012 rule that requires regulated facilities to develop contingency plans and train their employees on implementing those plans during an emergency.

There are numerous benefits to contingency planning for facilities, including preventing the loss of animal life and possible resulting undisposed carcasses that can pose a threat to public health; mitigating the loss of valuable research resources and income; reducing the time of recovery from disasters and thus providing cost savings to the affected businesses and organizations and allowing for business continuity; and reassuring the general public that facilities have measures in place to ensure the welfare of the animals in times of catastrophic and common emergencies.

In December 2012, APHIS published a final rule (77 FR 76814-76824) requiring AWA regulated facilities to develop a plan for emergencies (such as natural disasters, system failures, etc.) that may impact their facilities and animals. The rule became effective on January 30, 2013. On July 31, 2013, APHIS issued a stay of the contingency plan regulation to allow time to reevaluate the rule to determine how best to address the range of unique circumstances facing regulated entities, from small to large, and how to better communicate about these potential impacts and expectations.

In accordance with the 2021 Congressional Appropriations Act, APHIS is now reissuing its proposed rule, with a few additional modifications, including updating the compliance dates listed in that stayed rule to 180 days after effective date of final rule; modifying the dates in the final rule regarding when facilities must provide training to personnel to 60 days after the effective date; and making minor editorial revisions to several sections of the stayed final rule to clarify APHIS’ intent.

APHIS is committed to ensuring the welfare of regulated animals and continues to carry out the critical day-to-day work of ensuring the humane treatment of vulnerable animals through unannounced inspections, pre-compliance visits, horse protection inspections, and other activities.

APHIS will consider all comments received on this proposal on or before August 24, 2021. This proposal is on display in today’s Federal Register at Beginning tomorrow, comments may be submitted through either of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to Enter APHIS-2020-0101 in the Search field. Select the Documents tab, then select the Comment button in the list of documents
  • Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2020-0101, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. 

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