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Enforcement Summaries

Investigative and Enforcement Service’s Enforcement Summaries provide a summary of the enforcement actions APHIS has taken to help promote compliance with APHIS-administered laws. It is important to recognize that these enforcement actions are just one tool APHIS uses to promote compliance, and is only one aspect of the Agency’s mission to protect the health and value of American agriculture.

APHIS has a number of available options to resolve a case where the evidence substantiates that an alleged violation has occurred. These options include issuing regulatory correspondence (such as an official warning) to the individuals or businesses involved in the alleged violation, offering to resolve the case through a stipulated penalty, and referring the case to the USDA Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action before the Office of Administrative Law Judges or referral to the Department of Justice. The Enforcement Actions tabs below describe the various types of enforcement actions APHIS has taken during fiscal year 2019 and show the distribution of those enforcement actions among the APHIS programs.

Enforcement Actions and Regulatory Correspondence

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services’ open inventory of cases involve investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services for the four APHIS programs it serves, as well as for agricultural quarantine inspection activities carried out by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection. A case may involve one or more individuals or businesses.

Fiscal Year 2019. In fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,359 new cases; issued 218 warning letters; entered into 339 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $714,665 in stipulated penalties; and obtained, through Office of the General Counsel action, Administrative Orders assessing $308,660 in civil penalties.

At the end of fiscal year 2019, Investigative and Enforcement Services had 1,077 open cases at various stages of the investigation and enforcement processes. Of those pending cases, 628 involved agricultural quarantine inspection activities under an expedited resolution program. The remaining 449 cases were from the various APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 449 cases is shown in the following chart, organized by APHIS program.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include open passenger baggage or regulated garbage cases pending at the end of FY19 that were part of the expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 628 pending passenger baggage and regulated garbage cases is shown in the chart above.

In many instances, APHIS may enter into a settlement agreement (or stipulation) to resolve alleged violations of APHIS-administered laws. In cases in which the evidence substantiates that a violation occurred and the circumstances of the alleged violation are such that APHIS determines that a penalty is appropriate, Investigative and Enforcement Services may offer to resolve the case through these pre-litigation settlement agreements.

In fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 339 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $714,665 in stipulated penalties. A significant portion of those settlement agreements (190 cases and $120,324 in stipulated penalties) are the result of an expedited resolution program involving agricultural quarantine inspection activities, for which Customs and Border Protection refers the matter to Investigative and Enforcement Services while simultaneously providing evidence related to the alleged violation. The distribution of all cases for which pre-litigation settlement agreements were issued and stipulated penalties were also collected are shown in the following two charts.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include settlement agreements for passenger baggage or regulated garbage cases that were handled as part of the expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 190 settlement agreements issued for alleged regulated garbage and passenger baggage violations is shown in the following two charts.

APHIS has a number of available options to resolve a case in which the evidence substantiates that an alleged violation has occurred. These options include issuing regulatory correspondence (such as an official warning) to the individuals or businesses involved in the alleged violation; offering to resolve the case through a stipulated penalty; and referring the case to the USDA Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action before the USDA Office of Administrative Law Judges.

In fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 218 official warnings to individuals or businesses involved in cases in which the evidence substantiated that an alleged violation of an APHIS-administered statute or regulation occurred, but for which APHIS chose not to pursue a civil penalty or formal administrative action. An official warning or other regulatory correspondence is not a penalty, nor is it an enforcement action against an individual or business. Rather, the purpose of official warnings and other regulatory correspondence is to provide notice of the legal requirements and information to promote compliance with the law. Distribution of warning letters is shown in the following chart, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

For cases involving serious violations or for which regulatory correspondence or a stipulated penalty may not be appropriate, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services may refer the case to USDA’s Office of the General Counsel to initiate formal administrative action before the USDA Office of Administrative Law Judges and to seek civil penalties or other sanctions for alleged violations of APHIS statutes.

APHIS has many cases in various stages of the formal administrative process before the Office of Administrative Law Judges, including several under judicial review, in coordination with the Office of the General Counsel. Formal administrative action usually begins by filing an administrative complaint against a respondent. At that time, the USDA Hearing Clerk will assign a “docket number,” which is a unique number assigned to an administrative complaint. A single respondent may have more than one pending administrative complaint.

In fiscal year 2019, APHIS, through the Office of the General Counsel, obtained consent decisions and orders in 95 proceedings assessing $218,400 in civil penalties for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act and disqualifying 66 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act for a total of 78.5 years. In addition, APHIS obtained three final orders suspending or revoking Animal Welfare Act licenses.

The following pie chart shows the distribution of individuals and businesses whom APHIS has referred to the Office of the General Counsel for formal administrative action, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 


APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services cases involve investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services for the four APHIS programs it serves, as well as for agricultural quarantine inspection activities carried out by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection.

Each case is different and may vary in investigative scope, complexity, and time required to review. Some cases may involve multiple individuals or organizations, traverse multiple states and/or U.S. territories, and include multiple alleged violations—any of which might require extensive investigative resources to obtain sufficient evidence to determine whether an alleged violation has occurred. Other cases may be more straightforward, where the initial evidence clearly substantiates the alleged violation, allowing Investigative and Enforcement Services to more quickly process the case to help APHIS officials determine the appropriate resolution. Finally, Investigative and Enforcement Services conducts a streamlined review of most cases involving alleged regulated garbage and passenger baggage violations in support of agricultural quarantine inspection activities. These cases are completed as part of an expedited resolution program, in which Customs and Border Protection refers a case to APHIS while simultaneously providing evidence related to the alleged violation.

In fiscal year 2019, Investigative and Enforcement Services opened a total of 1,359 new cases. Of those cases, 927 consisted of referrals in support of agricultural quarantine inspection activities and were handled as part of the expedited resolution program. The remaining 432 investigations involved referrals from each of the four APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 432 investigations is shown in the following chart, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

*Chart does not include new cases referred as part of the regulated garbage (rg) and passenger baggage (pb) expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 927 passenger baggage and regulated garbage cases in expedited resolution programs is shown in the chart above.

IES Activity by Program Area

To support agricultural quarantine inspection activities in fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,121 cases; sent 145 warning letters; and issued 282 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $562,337 in stipulated penalties. Included in the pre-litigation settlements were multiple cases involving the alleged improper safeguarding of regulated garbage with combined civil penalties of $389,000.  In another case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement in the amount of $15,625 when it determined that a company had released several shipments on agricultural hold without Customs and Border Protection approval.

In fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 17 Animal Welfare Act cases; issued 2 official warnings; issued 4 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $17,000 in stipulated penalties; and obtained 10 administrative orders assessing $147,300 in civil penalties and suspending or revoking three Animal Welfare Act licenses.  

In one case, APHIS entered into a consent decision relating to multiple willful violations of the Animal Welfare Act, resulting in a $20,000 civil penalty. In another case, APHIS obtained an administrative order against an individual relating to alleged Animal Welfare Act violations, assessing a $30,000 civil penalty and revoking the individual’s Animal Welfare Act license. APHIS also negotiated several pre-litigation settlement agreements, including one involving a research facility that agreed to the assessment of a $17,000 civil penalty to resolve multiple alleged Animal Welfare Act violations.

In fiscal year 2019, APHIS obtained decisions and orders in 85 proceedings involving the Horse Protection Act, assessing $71,100 in civil penalties and disqualifying 66 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act.  In one case, APHIS entered into a consent decision relating to the entry or showing of six horses on seven occasions, resulting in a disqualification of 1 year and 8 months and a civil penalty of $7,700 to the respondent.

In addition to the warning letters and enforcement actions described above, APHIS has a variety of other tools it uses to promote compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. See the Animal Care Impact Report for additional information.

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services worked closely with Biotechnology Regulatory Services in fiscal year 2019 as part of an APHIS internal collaborative effort to further the protection and safeguarding of plant health throughout the United States. APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services provided compliance assistance to Biotechnology Regulatory Services, relating to the detection of genetically engineered (GE) wheat in an unplanted agricultural field in Washington State.


To support domestic plant health in fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 62 cases; sent 19 letters of regulatory correspondence; and issued 13 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $68,125 in stipulated penalties.

In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement in the amount of $2,875 for alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act. In that case, regulated articles went missing from retail stores while under PPQ emergency action notice.

To support animal health in fiscal year 2019, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 156 cases; issued 67 total letters of regulatory correspondence; and 40 pre-litigation settlements resulting in the collection of $67,203 in stipulated penalties. 

In one case, APHIS negotiated a pre-litigation settlement in the amount of $9,000 for an alleged violation of the Animal Health Protection Act relating to the interstate movement of swans without an interstate certificate of veterinary inspection; and to the presentation of a falsified export health certificate accompanied by a false laboratory report for avian influenza testing. 


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