DeHaven Outlines AWA Enforcement, Describes Current Agency Activities Related to Dogs and Dog Breed
A NAIA conference report
By: Patti Strand Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Animal Legislation |
The US Congress passed the federal Animal Welfare Act in 1966 in answer to complaints that stolen pets were winding up in research laboratories, Dr. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for the US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care division, told the conference audience. Authority for writing regulations to implement and enforce the law resides in DeHaven’s department.
In a relaxed and sometimes humerous vein, Dr. DeHaven took the audience on a virtual tour through his department, outlining his responsibilities under the AWA and detailing the public comment process for rules changes.
The AWA regulates animal dealers, including commercial kennels that sell puppies for resale. These facilities must maintain the health of their animals and meet regulatory standards for animal housing and care. Facilities are inspected before getting a license and are subject to routine unannounced inspections and to inspections based on complaints.
To carry out its duties, the agency has a budget in the realm of $12.2 million and 75-80 inspectors who check on 9900 sites, including commercial kennels, research laboratories, exotic animal dealers, and animal exhibitors and transporters.
If a facility fails to comply with the rules, the inspector may issue a noncompliance citation and give the owner a deadline for correcting the infraction. If the deadline is not met or if the violation is more serious, the enforcement options include warning citations, negotiated agreements, court hearings, and license suspensions or revocations.
DeHaven said that the agency’s enforcement philosophy is to get off the backs of good facility owners, work with those who want to comply, and get rid of the bad actors. To this end, the inspection philosophy is to protect animals, to apply the regulations without nit-picking, to be creative in gaining compliance, and to encourage self-regulation.
“Where appropriate, Animal Care will enter into settlement agreements wherein some or all of the civil penalty is applied toward facility renovations, employee training, animal-related research, evaluation of the facilities and programs by independent experts, or other provisions that will improve the welfare of animals and focus on the violations that were documented,” DeHaven said.
“We want the inspectors to be innovative in gaining compliance and encourage facility operators to put in place processes of self-oversight programs that will promote long-term compliance.”
The current climate
DeHaven’s department recently approved a rule change that makes it easier to confiscate dogs that are suffering in below-standard facilities; has proposed a rule change that will give the agency greater authority to deny a license to unqualified applicants; is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on enforcement of new rules about airline shipment of animals; and is defending its definition of ‘retail store’ in a lawsuit brought by the Doris Day Animal League.
“We’re pretty confident that Congress intended for us to regulate at the wholesale level,” DeHaven said. As a result, USDA defines ‘retail pet store’ as anyone who sells directly to the consumer, a category that includes casual breeders, show breeders, and those who maintain kennels of working or hunting dogs. The DDAL lawsuit contends that the agency should narrow its definition of retail outlet so that all breeders will be covered by the law.
“We would be inspecting your backyards and bedrooms if we did that,” DeHaven said.
While USDA defends the suit in court, the agency staff is examining thousands of comments to a rules change that would codify the current policy of regulating only wholesale breeders of hunting, security, and breeding dogs. The comment period ended in April. The outcome will be printed in the Federal Register when the proposal is either accepted or rejected.
About The Author
All Authors Of This Article: | Patti Strand |