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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture

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Enforcement Summaries

Investigative and Enforcement Services’ 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 this tool 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 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 or referral to the U.S. Department of Justice.  The Enforcement Actions tabs below describe the various types of enforcement actions APHIS took during fiscal year 2020 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 2020.  In fiscal year 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,129 new cases; issued 473 warning letters; entered into 549 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $1,696,990 in stipulated penalties; and obtained, through Office of the General Counsel action, 38 Administrative Orders assessing $553,925 in civil penalties.

At the end of fiscal year 2020, Investigative and Enforcement Services had 703 open cases at various stages of the investigation and enforcement processes. Of those pending cases, 222 involved agricultural quarantine inspection activities under an expedited resolution program. The remaining 481 cases were from the various APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those cases is shown in the following two charts, organized by APHIS program.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

IES Open Cases End of FY20 Pie Chart

*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.

IES Open Cases Regulated Garbage and Passenger Baggage FY20

Distribution of the 222 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 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 549 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $1,696,990 in stipulated penalties. A significant portion of those settlement agreements (380 cases and $1,022,900 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). 

IES Stipulated Penalties Assessed FY20

*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 380 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 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 473 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). 

IES Official Warning Letters Pie Chart

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 2020, APHIS, through the Office of the General Counsel, obtained consent decisions and orders in 38 proceedings assessing $553,925 in civil penalties.  The decisions and orders included 35 orders assessing $521,175 in civil penalties for violations of the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act, and disqualifying 10 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act for a total of approximately 7 years. In addition, APHIS obtained six 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 and which are pending 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 2020, Investigative and Enforcement Services opened a total of 1,129 new cases. Of those cases, 632 consisted of referrals in support of agricultural quarantine inspection activities and were handled as part of the expedited resolution program. The remaining 497 investigations involved referrals from each of the four APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 497 investigations, and of the 632 cases in support of agricultural quarantine inspection activities are shown in the following two charts, categorized by program area.

Key to abbreviations in Pie Chart(s). 

Pie Chart for IES New Cases

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

IES New Cases - Regulated Garbage and Passenger Baggage FY20

Distribution of the 632 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 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 907 cases; sent 316 warning letters; and issued 488 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $1,393,424 in stipulated penalties. In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement for $364,000 to resolve more than 100 alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act relating to the handling of regulated garbage. In another case, APHIS entered into a Consent Decision and Order relating to multiple violations of shipment holds placed by Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, resulting in an $18,750 civil penalty.

In fiscal year 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 30 Animal Welfare Act cases; issued 4 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $115,500 in stipulated penalties; and obtained 24 administrative orders assessing $509,375 in civil penalties and suspending or revoking six Animal Welfare Act licenses.  

In one case, APHIS entered into a Consent Decision and Order relating to multiple violations of the Animal Welfare Act, resulting in a $7,500 civil penalty and a revocation of the respondent’s Animal Welfare Act license. In another case, APHIS obtained an administrative order against an individual relating to multiple alleged Animal Welfare Act violations, assessing a $340,000 civil penalty and revoking the respondent’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 $74,000 civil penalty to resolve multiple alleged Animal Welfare Act violations. Beginning in late December 2019, APHIS also began posting copies of enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, consent decisions, and administrative complaints) on the Animal Welfare Enforcement Actions Website.

In fiscal year 2020, APHIS obtained decisions and orders in 11 proceedings involving the Horse Protection Act, assessing $11,800 in civil penalties and disqualifying 10 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act. 

In one case involving the entrance of a horse for the purpose of showing the horse at a horse show while the horse was sore, a respondent consented to a $1,100 civil penalty and an 8-month disqualification. In another matter concerning similar allegations, a respondent consented to a 15-month disqualification and a $2,500 civil penalty.

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 Website for additional information.

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services worked closely with Biotechnology Regulatory Services in fiscal year 2020 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 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 63 cases; issued 51 official warning letters; and negotiated 29 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $143,728 in stipulated penalties.

In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement for $26,563 relating to international mail violations of the Plant Protection Act. In another case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement for $25,000 for multiple fruit fly violations of the Plant Protection Act that involved the importation of prohibited fruit by a large chain store.

To support animal health in fiscal year 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 129 cases; issued 106 warning letters; and issued 28 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $44,338 in stipulated penalties. In one such settlement agreement, a subject agreed to pay a civil penalty of $6,250 for importing a mixed-breed equine from Spain without a certificate of veterinary inspection. In another matter, a federally accredited veterinarian was assessed a $3,750 civil penalty for failing to accurately complete an export health certificate used to export 20 mute swans and 4 mandarin ducks to Taiwan.  In addition, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services obtained two administrative orders assessing a total of $14,000 in civil penalties against persons for violations of laws aimed at protecting animal health and American agriculture.


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