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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 2021 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 2021.  In fiscal year 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 1,253 new cases; issued 466 warning letters; entered into 491 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $883,525 in stipulated penalties; and obtained, through Office of the General Counsel action, Administrative Orders assessing $48,100 in civil penalties. 

At the end of fiscal year 2021, Investigative and Enforcement Services had 488 open cases at various stages of the investigation and enforcement processes. Of those pending cases, 88 involved agricultural quarantine inspection activities under an expedited resolution program. The remaining 400 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). 

*Chart does not include open passenger baggage or regulated garbage cases pending at the end of FY20 that were part of the expedited resolution programs.

Distribution of the 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 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 491 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $883,525 in stipulated penalties. A significant portion of those settlement agreements (307 cases and $231,000 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 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 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services issued 466 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 2021, APHIS, through the Office of the General Counsel, obtained consent decisions and orders in 19 proceedings assessing $48,100 in civil penalties.  The decisions and orders included orders disqualifying 4 individuals from participating in activities regulated under the Horse Protection Act, and suspending or revoking 4 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 currently 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 2021, Investigative and Enforcement Services opened a total of 1,275 new cases. Of those cases, 700 consisted of referrals in support of agricultural quarantine inspection activities and were handled as part of the expedited resolution program. The remaining 575 investigations involved referrals from each of the four APHIS programs and Customs and Border Protection. Distribution of those 575 investigations, and of the 700 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). 

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

Distribution of the 604 passenger baggage and regulated garbage cases in expedited resolution programs is shown in the chart above.

IES Activity by Program Area

To support AQI activities in fiscal year 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services initiated 949 cases, issued 293 official warnings, and issued 437 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $757,012 in stipulated penalties. In one case, IES negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement in the amount of $65,500 to resolve numerous alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act relating to the handling of regulated garbage. In another case, IES negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement with a major airline for $37,500 to resolve numerous alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act relating to the breach of agricultural holds for inspection placed by the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection.

To support animal welfare in fiscal year 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services initiated 118 cases for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), issued 58 official warnings, issued 3 pre-litigation settlements resulting in the collection of $18,200 in stipulated penalties, and obtained 8 administrative orders.  In one case, working with the USDA’s Office of the General Counsel, APHRE entered into a Consent Decision and Order relating to multiple violations of the AWA, which  suspended the respondent’s AWA license for a term of five years. In two other cases, IES obtained administrative orders against individuals relating to alleged AWA violations, permanently revoking both respondent’s AWA licenses. In two other cases, IES worked closely with the Office of the General Counsel and with the Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division to pursue enforcement action relating to multiple alleged violations of the AWA. The collective efforts resulted in 21-day license suspensions and swift administrative and civil enforcement. 

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services has continued to post copies of enforcement records (such as initial decision and orders, default decisions, consent decisions, and administrative complaints) on its website:  USDA-APHIS | Animal Welfare and Horse Protection Actions.

To support horse protection in fiscal year  2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services worked with the Office of the General Counsel to obtain 9 administrative orders assessing $7,100 in civil penalties and disqualifying 4 persons for a total of over 6 years 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 subject consented to a $6,000 civil penalty and a 48 month disqualification. In another matter, a subject consented to an 18-month disqualification.

APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services is available to work closely with Biotechnology Regulatory Services as part of an APHIS internal collaborative effort to further the protection and safeguarding of plant health throughout the United States.

To support plant health in fiscal year 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services initiated 41 cases, issued 18 official warnings, and negotiated 16 pre-litigation settlement agreements resulting in the collection of $46,906 in stipulated penalties. IES negotiated two pre-litigation settlements, one for $8,750 and one for $5,000, in two separate cases, relating to importation violations of the Plant Protection Act. In another case, IES negotiated a pre-litigation settlement for $3,750 for fruit fly violations of the Plant Protection Act that involved the importation of prohibited fruit by a food manufacturer.

To support animal health, in fiscal year 2021, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 145 cases, issued 97 official warnings, issued 35 pre-litigation settlements resulting in the collection of $61,407 in stipulated penalties, and obtained two administrative orders assessing $41,000 in civil penalties against persons for violations of laws aimed at protecting animal health and American agriculture. In one case, an accredited veterinarian agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000 for failing to accurately complete Interstate Certificates of Veterinary Inspection that were used to transport equines across state lines.  In another matter, a subject agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000 for transporting a horse that exhibited clinical signs of illness across state lines without the proper documentation, in violation of the Animal Health Protection Act.

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