FAQ - Animal Welfare Act Violations? - Part 1

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Always into something...
Jan 28, 2009
Bowling Green, KY
Written by jandshyne:

What do you do if you see a breeding facility, pet store, wholesaler, mill, zoo, or other organization not following the USDA Animal Welfare Act regulations?? If you do something about this what will the USDA do?? These are questions commonly asked and we will do our best to answer them here.

First, if you see something that concerns you with regards to the breeding, selling, treatment of, or basic care of a regulated species you should report it to the USDA. Not only should you report it but you should follow through until you see action taken. The more you complain and make noise the more serious your complaint will be taken.

How can you report it??

By contacting the regional office for the area the breeder/store/facility is in.

Where can you find their contact information??

By going here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/acorg.html to find their contact information broken out by region with a color coded map.

What is the best means of complaint??

Written and faxed, followed up by a telephone call to the regional office to ensure it’s being taken seriously. E-Mailed complaints are rarely responded to but you can certainly do all three if you’re willing.

Make sure you are VERY detailed, very to the point, and do not sound accusatory. A bulleted listing of the things you’ve seen and experienced without a lot of chit chat and personal opinion is usually the best approach. Stick to facts and take photos if you can (the invention of camera phones is just wonderful in these situations).

What if you’re not certain the facility is licensed or requires a license??

That information is a matter of public record and you can phone the regional office to inquire as to the status of a facility. You are also entitled to ALL of their inspection reports, and their Program of Veterinary care under the Freedom of Information Act. Even some of their herd information may be available to you under this act, such as their listing of animals on hand.

What if they’re not licensed??

Complain, complain, and complain!!! Persist until they become licensed!!

What if they are licensed??

Complain, complain, and complain some more because this is even worse!!

What will the USDA do about my complaint??

They are required to follow up on the complaint. Below is a list of some of the most common actions taken:

If the facility is not licensed they will be sent a licensing packet with instructions in how to fill it out and information on whether or not they are required to become licensed. (Make sure you follow up on this!!! Often times people slip through the cracks after this point so use the Freedom of Information Act to your advantage!!)

If the facility is licensed the inspector for the area is required to follow up. This is usually accomplished by a surprise inspection. At that point the inspector has several options:

-A written reprimand which goes in to the permanent record of the facility

-A verbal reprimand which is not really traceable

-A call to the local animal welfare authorities (e.g. the Humane Society, Animal Control, Game and Fish, the ASPCA, etc…)

-A suspension of the facilities license until the regulations are met

-A revocation of the facility’s license

-A large amount of fines can be assessed

These options are only available if the inspector sees a disregard for the regulations at the time so if the facility has cleaned up, corrected the problem, etc… before the inspector arrives nothing can be done.

Will the USDA remove animals??

NO, that is NOT in the scope of their authority. They can revoke licensure, assess fines, and issue warnings but the actual removal of animals falls to the local animal welfare agencies. Often the USDA will accompany agencies like Game and Fish, the ASPCA, etc… and they can definitely use their position to get the point across but they can not legally remove animals.

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