FAQ - USDA Licensure Requirements - Part 2

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

Q: What types of things will a USDA inspector look for?

A: That varies a great deal from inspector to inspector. The USDA has no real printed requirements specifically for exotics so each individual inspector will generally have their own preferences. That being said the most commonly required things are:

-An adequate amount of floor space per animal, usually they suggest 1 square foot but obviously this isn’t enough for most hedgies.

-A regular cage cleaning schedule with cages free of excessive debris, feces, urine, or leftover food

-An exercise schedule allowing for free roam time if suggested for that species

-Food and water sources in separate containers off of the cage floor (e.g. you can not throw food on the cage floor for your hedgie to seek out and call that adequate without a statement from a veterinary expert saying this is the only way to feed them)

-Food and water sources free of debris, feces, urine, calcification, etc…

-A listing of each animal in residence (both adults and offspring)

-A listing of the cause of death of any animal that perished in your facility after you became licensed

-A record of each sale from your facility after you’ve become licensed (you shouldn’t have any before this) These records MUST be detailed and most often the USDA Acquisition/Transfer form is your best bet. If your inspector is really paperwork picky make sure you get a Driver’s License number in place of a USDA license number when selling to a private, un-licensed party. You must keep two copies of this form for yourself and give the original to the customer.

-A VERY, VERY complete Program of Veterinary Care. This MUST be updated ANY time you vary from it, so for instance if you switch vets you must do a new PVC, if you switch euthanasia options you must update your PVC, etc… This hangs a LARGE amount of breeders.

-An adequate amount of light and ventilation for your animals.

-A safe and secure facility conducive to the animals’ health and well being (e.g. you can not have free roam Chinchillas in a room with dogs because that would severely endanger them).

Q: Will my inspector call before coming to inspect me?

A: Most often not after the initial pre-licensing inspection, you should receive at least one un-announced inspection per year.

Q: Do I have to be available a certain amount of hours for inspections??

A: That is really a tricky situation. Under the new addendum a “responsible adult” must be on site for a “reasonable” amount of hours each week day between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. What does that mean for you?? Either you or another adult you deem “responsible for your actions” must be on site during the week for a reasonable amount of hours each day. So for instance you can not allow your teenage helper to escort an inspector during an inspection. Most often your inspector will give you leeway of a few hours one way or the other but I STRONGLY urge you to discuss this with your inspector right up front and make your schedule VERY clear to them. Also, if you go on vacation it’s a good idea to let them know in advance and if you will be out of town for more than 3 days with your animals it is required you notify your inspector.

Q: What happens if my inspector comes and I’m not available?

A: Again that depends on the inspector. In most cases you’ll receive a warning either written or verbal which will depend on the circumstances, e.g. a family emergency, medical emergency, etc… and the amount of travel time for your inspector. Most of the time these warnings are not given a large amount of credence by regional offices, inspectors, or breeders simply because it’s impossible to be available all of the time if you’re a smaller home breeder. A pet store yes, a breeder no. The USDA Animal Care Act was originally designed to regulate the treatment and care of animals in research facilities, then pet stores were added, and so on until it trickled down to smaller breeders and most inspectors understand this and will work with you. Again it’s best to not just assume though and to always be on the offensive with this rule.

Q: Who’s responsibility is it to know if a particular section of the regulations have been changed?

A: YOURS!! ALWAYS check the USDA’s site for the most recent updates to the rules and/or ask your inspector if you think there may have been an addendum.

For further information or clarification of issues not covered here or to request literature, forms, or an application from the USDA Animal Care division please contact them directly by:

Going to their website:


Phoning, faxing, or mailing the regional office for your area. A map of the regions and contact information can be found on this page:


**You will probably get the best results by phoning the regional office directly but please if you’re questioning a particular portion of the regulations ALWAYS get it in writing for your protection.***
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