USDA-APHIS teams up with states to test electronic certificates of inspection

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The Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health of the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working with six states—California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—to test an electronic Interstate Certificate of Veterinary Inspection.

The pilot program uses the existing paper-based interstate inspection certificate process as framework, according to the USDA. Instead of filling out paper certificates, however, accredited veterinarians in the participating states have the option of using the Web-based certificate. The electronic certificate—an online version of the standard certificate of veterinary inspection approved by the United States Animal Health Association five years ago—will be transmitted electronically to the destination state and a printout of the certificate will accompany the animals. The program is exclusively for livestock and equids.

The program is part of the U.S. Animal Identification Plan and was developed, in part, as a response to the 1998 Government Paperwork Elimination Act. A USAHA resolution in 2001 also urged the agency to develop electronic certificates.

"We're trying to get rid of paper processes and streamline the processes," said Tim O'Neil, a program analyst for the CEAH. The program will also reduce the amount of time it takes to track animal movements a disease outbreak, he said.

The program is voluntary and there are no plans to make it mandatory, O'Neil said. The USDA is making the software available to veterinarians in participating states free of charge; however, some states may have applicable fees. Veterinarians who would like to participate should contact their state veterinarian.

The USDA has purchased an eight-year license to use GlobalVetLink ICVI software for the pilot program. GlobalVetLink has been testing the software in Florida for several years.

"We're modifying the software to meet the demands of a national program," O'Neil said.

Seven more states are scheduled to join the pilot program in July 2004, and the USDA hopes to have all states online by July 2005, O'Neil said.