FAQ - USDA Licensure Requirements - Part 1

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

USDA Licensing Requirements - Part 1

There are a huge amount of questions surrounding USDA licensing requirements and the scope of the authority of the USDA. They are always changing and are most definitely open to the interpretation of the various inspectors and the regional offices so we need to keep that in mind. Hopefully we can keep this thread updated with the most commonly asked and answered questions and the newest information possible.

Q: Do I require a USDA license to breed hedgehogs?

A: That depends, under the newest addendum effective last year, you require a USDA license if you have more than 3 breeding females**. This means if you have 3 you do not and if you have 4 you do. Aside from that you can not slide in under this rule by having 6 females and only breeding 3 at a time. If you have more than 3 females in residence you require a license because the ability to breed them all is there. This doesn’t count offspring not yet of breeding age but does count them once they are “sexually viable” which in hedgies can mean anytime after 8 weeks but you would most likely not have a problem unless you had females aged over 6 months.

**Contrary to popular belief you DO NOT require a license to give away animals, nor do you require an exemption one time or otherwise. You can give away an animal whether bred by you or not without a license so long as no compensation changes hands. Compensation could include gas money, a free meal, etc… if your regional inspector is sticky so if in doubt get a license***

Q: Do I have to purchase my breeding stock from a licensed breeder?

A: Yes you do if you’re required to be USDA licensed yourself. You must either have proof that your regulated species came from a licensed breeder (example: a USDA approved Transition form) or an exempt breeder (example: a letter from the breeder stating the presence of only 3 females).

Q: What class of license do I need?

A: Class A is a breeder’s license, Class B is a “brokering license”, and class C is an exhibitor’s license. If you have a Class A license you are covered for brokering and/or exhibiting as long as it is not the major source of your regulated activities. So for instance, I can sell a hoglet bred by me to breeder A to sell to her customer as long as I don’t do it on a large scale. Likewise I can take hedgies to educational events and exhibit them in moderation. Most small scale breeders fall under Class A licensure. My expertise on the other options is rather limited so I will say only that wholesalers and pet stores fall under Class B and for further information on those types of licensure you should contact the USDA regional office for your area directly. (Please see the bottom of this FAQ for contact information)

Q: What is the $500 rule?

A: Any species requires USDA licensure if you breed and make more than $500 gross profit (before taxes or expenses). It is unclear whether or not this rule overrides the 3 or more rule so for specifics you should contact the USDA directly.

Q: What will I have to do to become USDA licensed??

A: This is a 3 step process.

First you must either go online and request an application or you must phone your regional office and request an application. Then you must receive and fill out the application. The application is fairly simple but does include a Program of Veterinary care which must be filled out and signed by a vet and updated anytime you change it so you will need to set up a HOME visit with your vet prior to your initial inspection (yes a home visit annually by your vet is required).

Second, the inspector for your area will contact you to set up your pre-licensing inspection. At the pre-licensing inspection they will go over all of the regulations with you in detail, answer any questions you have, and then inspect your record keeping system and your animals. If something warrants attention they will either ask you to fix it before their next visit and approve your licensure or they will deny your licensure until the problem is fixed and give you a certain amount of time in which to fix it. At this time you will usually receive a “starter kit” of USDA approved record keeping forms or your inspector will approve the forms you currently use. IF your inspector approves a form that you’ve designed please be aware another inspector may not like them and is within their power to require you to use the USDA’s version instead.

Finally, if you pass your pre-licensing inspection you will be required to send in your first fee to the USDA before you can actually call yourself licensed. Within 6 months you will have another un-announced inspection as well.
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