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Tell APHIS to Hold Research Institutions Responsible for Violations

Tell APHIS to Hold Research Institutions Responsible for Violations

Name: Demand accurate reporting and accountability for violations of AWA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) just released its 2018 Impact Report, summarizing its work over the past year.

According to this report, national compliance with the Animal Welfare Act has reached 91% thanks to “quality inspections, guidance and outreach.” If you just read that statistic, you might think that animal breeders, transporters, exhibitors and researchers are doing a great job of complying with animal welfare laws, and that infractions are rare. But that’s not the case.

This high animal welfare “compliance” rate is due less to actual compliance, and more to a new, almost hands-off approach APHIS has begun taking toward non-compliance on the part of its licensees. Infractions that were once met with citations and punishment are being re-classified as “teachable moments” and essentially swept under the carpet. Instances of non-compliance that are deemed “non-critical” by APHIS aren’t even being noted on inspection reports. “Critical” non-compliance instances, those which affect animal welfare, are also omitted from inspection reports if the facilities themselves report them. Only repeat offenders may be subject to citations and fines. 

The low number of reported animal welfare citations and penalties is no matter for celebration. Rather, it is a call for change to a broken system that ensures violations under the Animal Welfare Act will be underreported and that misdeeds against animals will go unpunished. 


Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact the Administrator of APHIS, Kevin Shea, and ask that APHIS revise its policy to ensure that laboratory animal welfare is thoroughly monitored, documented and that meaningful penalties be enforced for violations.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.



  • Kevin Shea, APHIS Administrator


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Please revise a lax policy of AWA enforcement

Dear [Decision Maker],

Since APHIS adopted its current policy towards violations of the AWA, emphasizing the use of so-called "teachable moments" for issues of non-compliance by licensed research institutions, the incidents of reported violations have dropped dramatically. This is highlighted by the 91% compliance rate of AWA licensees reported in APHIS's Impact Report for 2018, issued last week.

In reality, that high number for the compliance rate is due to a failure to document violations by research facilities in their inspection reports, resulting in incomplete data and low rates of enforcement. By self-reporting any AWA issues of non-compliance, institutions are no longer subject to public records for these offenses or fines that should result from malfeasance.

The Impact Report presents a false and distorted picture of reality. The reality is that violations in labs continue to be a problem. The lack of transparency that results from keeping infractions off of inspection reports makes APHIS complicit in a scheme to deceive the public about what actually happens in labs. No one reading the Impact Report can come away with an objectively factual understanding of laboratory compliance.

Please consider revising this policy to require documentation on all "teachable moments" and make that documentation available to the public through the on-line Animal Care Search Tool. The current policy deemphasizes the importance of compliance with federal law and regulations and undermines the importance of animal welfare for animals in the lab. The public needs its own "teachable moment" from APHIS as to when it can view the facts in the plain light of day.

[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]