APHIS revises investigative and enforcement website

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in April announced a new online format designed to provide stakeholders with a broader view of the agency's efforts to promote compliance with federal regulations.

The new summary data include information about enforcement efforts in the areas of biotechnology, agricultural quarantine inspection, animal and plant health, and animal welfare and horse protection, the agency said in an April 18 press release.

APHIS' Investigative and Enforcement Services, with its staff of roughly 130 employees, evaluates alleged violations of the statutes and regulations administered by APHIS programs.

The move is meant to expand available data to present an overall view of APHIS' enforcement activities and provide the annual data from IES in one location. The agency says it is making these changes to provide better context for its enforcement activities.

The new format includes data charts and a more thorough explanation of IES' functions, particularly as they relate to the investigative, enforcement, and regulatory support services for the four APHIS programs it serves—Animal Care, Biotechnology Regulatory Services, Plant Protection and Quarantine, and Veterinary Services—as well as for agricultural quarantine inspection activities carried out by the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection.

APHIS also issued the Fiscal Year 2018 Impact Report for its Animal Care program. Together with the enforcement summaries, the impact report provides information on APHIS' work to ensure the welfare of animals through inspections, support, customer service, training, emergency support, and enforcement, the agency said.

To avoid confusion, APHIS said it is archiving its enforcement summaries for previous years as they cannot be readily compared with the new format. APHIS plans to make annual updates to the enforcement data and activities in the new format going forward. The new content will be available at the APHIS website.

In 2017, APHIS came under fire for taking down from its website thousands of reports and documents providing information on compliance with the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. The agency, according to an online post, said it was conducting a comprehensive review of the information it posts on its website for the public to view.

"To conduct the review, the entire agency search tool database, along with additional documents, was taken off line. As a result of this review, APHIS has removed certain personal information from APHIS' website involving the Horse Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act."

APHIS reposted certain inspection reports and research facility annual reports that were determined to be appropriate for reposting. Once a month, it also publicly posts a list of licensees that are regulated under the AWA. However, those seeking information from APHIS regarding inspection reports not currently posted to the website, regulatory correspondence, and enforcement-related matters must submit a Freedom of Information Act request.

Impact report graphic

Related JAVMA content:

USDA exempts more exhibitors, owners from licensing (Aug. 1, 2018)

APHIS considers stricter animal welfare licensing (Oct. 15, 2017)

APHIS pulls welfare information from website (April 1, 2017)

Soring final rule put on hold (March 1, 2017)