A recent report found that the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service needs to improve its controls over the animal import process, especially quarantine of animals that might be carrying foreign diseases.
The USDA Office of Inspector General issued the report in mid-August with details of an audit of APHIS import controls for fiscal 2008 and 2009. The OIG noted in the report that birds with exotic Newcastle disease and at least one horse with contagious equine metritis recently entered the country, then spread the diseases to other animals.
In fiscal 2008, APHIS monitored the importation of 24 million animals other than fish. The agency required quarantine at an APHIS animal import center or a private facility of 165,000 animals, mostly birds and horses, from 68 high-risk countries.
The OIG found problems with the import controls for 53 of 131 shipments of high-risk animals that it selected for review. Among the problems, APHIS staff did not monitor all shipments in transit from ports of entry to quarantine facilities. Staff did not ensure that certificates of veterinary inspection were complete. Staff listed the animals' port of embarkation rather than country of origin on some import permits.
Some of the other findings of the OIG audit were that APHIS port staff did not always clean and disinfect cargo areas and transportation equipment after high-risk animal shipments, quarantine facilities had security deficiencies, oversight of private quarantine facilities needed improvement, and revenue from user fees was insufficient to support operations and upgrades at quarantine facilities.
The OIG report is available at www.usda.gov/oig/rptsauditsaphis.htm.