As previously reported, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has proposed to reissue a rule to require that breeder/dealers, research facilities, intermediate handlers, carriers, and other animal enterprises subject to USDA licensing establish emergency/contingency planning in the event of a natural or manmade disaster or other business disruption.
Following the devastating 2005 hurricane season, APHIS Animal Care Program concluded that entities responsible for animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) could better safeguard the health and welfare of their animals by developing contingency plans for emergencies or disasters that could reasonably be anticipated and expected to be detrimental to the health and well-being of the animals in the regulated entity’s possession.
In December 2012, APHIS published a final rule that required research facilities and dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and carriers of animals regulated under the AWA to meet certain requirements for developing contingency plans and responsibilities related to the contingency plans. However, APHIS recognized the validity of certain concerns expressed by a number of small entities that the requirements were excessive for their operations. As a result, in July 2013, APHIS issued a stay of the regulation so it could reexamine circumstances and costs incurred by affected business, particularly based on size of businesses.
Before it completed its assessment of impact on small-sized entities, APHIS issued a new rule in June 2018 that exempted from licensure dealers with four or fewer breeding female animals. APHIS reports that through December 2020, 259 licensees cancelled their licenses due to their being eligible for de minimis licensing exceptions.
Wondering if you need to be licensed by USDA? Access the Licensing and Registration Assistant, a self-service tool that asks a series of questions to help you determine whether you should be licensed by USDA.
The FY 2021 Congressional Agricultural Appropriations Act directed APHIS to propose lifting the stay.
APHIS believes the concerns that led to the July 2013 stay have been addressed. For remaining licensees and registrants, contingency planning requirements remain an important safeguard for the health and welfare of animals regulated under the AWA. In keeping with the terms of that law and consistent with its own evaluation, APHIS has proposed this rule to lift the stay.
WHAT THE PROPOSED RULE WOULD DO
In addition to lifting the stay, APHIS’ proposed rule would:
- Update the dates by which regulated entities must create their contingency plans, to 180 days after the effective date the rule becomes final.
- Modify the dates by which regulated entities must provide training to their personnel, to 60 days after the contingency plan is put in place.
- Remove the requirement that facilities, dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and carriers document their personnel’s participation in trainings.
APHIS has also drafted optional forms that regulated entities may use to develop and document their contingency plan.
APHIS estimates that regulated entities would spend only 1-2 hours in developing a plan and one hour for employee training. As such, it believes that the adoption of the rule would not result in any significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
AKC SUPPORTS EMERGENCY CONTINGENCY PLANNING
The American Kennel Club’s (AKC) own Care and Conditions of Dogs Policy features operations guidelines that state “Each kennel should maintain an emergency preparedness plan adequate for the type of facility owned and breed(s) of dogs maintained therein.” AKC’s Developing an Emergency or Disaster Preparedness Plan document was designed to help kennel owners develop their own unique emergency and evacuation contingencies.
AKC’s Government Relations Department (GR) has analyzed the proposed rule and believes it is an important and appropriate next step in helping protect both the dogs kept and staff employed by regulated facilities. AKC believes that emergency contingency planning can prevent loss of animal life, reduce disaster recovery timeframes, and better ensure continuity of regulated businesses. Moreover, the formalization of the rule will help reassure the public that facilities have measures in place to ensure animal welfare during emergencies. For regulated entities that are also subject to AKC inspections, the costs of implementation of emergency contingency planning has likely already been incurred to comply with AKC’s Care and Conditions of Dogs Policy.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Those interested in providing comment to USDA APHIS on the proposed rule are encouraged to do so prior to August 24, 2021. Comments may be submitted by either of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go www.regulations.gov. Enter APHIS-2020-0101 in the Search field. Click on the blue “Comment” box near the top left of the Proposed Rule page.
- Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2020-0101, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
AKC will provide a copy of its formal comment upon its submission. For more information on this or other pending federal regulations, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to AKC’s online Regulatory Resource Center at www.akcgr.org/regcenter.