Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) announced that its Animal Welfare Inspection Guide was amended in late December 2022 to ensure consistency across guiding regulatory documents and to align with the congressional directive to discontinue the use of “teachable moments” during inspections.
Since 2016, USDA APHIS documented teachable moments for minor, isolated noncompliances discovered during facility inspections that did not have an impact on the welfare or care of animals. Teachable moments were not used to address noncompliances that directly impacted animal welfare or care, or when dealing with licensees that had multiple noncompliances. Teachable moments provided an opportunity for breeders and other regulated entities to receive APHIS guidance to improve their operations, which AKC believes benefitted the overall care of animals. However, in July 2022, APHIS’ Deputy Administrator for Animal Care announced that, due to a congressional directive, the agency would discontinue the use of teachable moments as part of its enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Since August 2022, all noncompliances, including minor issues not impacting animal welfare or care, have been cited on inspection reports.
Despite the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) and other organizations’ work on educating the public and members of congress about the value of teachable moments for improving overall transparency, agency cooperation, and overall welfare for animal licensed under the AWA, the final version of the 2023 fiscal year spending bill that funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture reiterated a prohibition on teachable moments for AWA licensees.
AKC believes that the use of teachable moments helps ensure compliance with AWA regulations, promotes regulatory and enforcement efficiency, and helps improve overall care of animals. We will continue to advocate for the reimplementation of its use.
DETAILS ON INSPECTION GUIDE UPDATES:
Updates to the Animal Welfare Inspection Guide:
(1) Remove all references to teachable moments.
(2) Clarify the definition of “repeat” with regards to noncompliance.
(3) Add Search Inspection Standard Operating Procedures.
(4) Include Confiscation Guidance.