APHIS Issues Final Rule Regarding Handling of Animals
By: Sydney Sheffield
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued a final rule modifying the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to include a requirement for a contingency plan for the handling of animals during an emergency. As of December 2012, there was a stay on the regulation that required facilities to develop contingency plans and train their employees on implementing those plans during an emergency.
The proposal for this final rule received 140 comments, 138 of which supported the rule. The final rule is said to better ensure that entities responsible for animals regulated under the AWA are prepared to safeguard the health and welfare of such animals in the event of possible emergencies or disasters.
“We believe that emergency contingency planning can prevent loss of animal life, reduce disaster recovery timeframes, and better ensure continuity of regulated businesses,” said Sheila Goffe, Vice President, Government Relations at the American Kennel Club (AKC). “Formalization of this rule will help reassure the public that regulated facilities have measures in place to ensure animal welfare during emergencies.”
The final rule will go into effect on January 3, 2022. After 180 days (July 5, 2022), facilities must have an emergency contingency plan and provide training to personnel within 60 days of the plan being implemented. A plan must include that in an emergency, facilities can continue to provide food, water, housing, protection, and appropriate veterinary care for animals, especially if facilities are damaged or animal handlers cannot get to the facility.
Matthew R. Bailey, President of the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) said, “NABR supports the objectives embodied in the proposed rule and believes contingency plans are an important component of a well-managed animal care and use program. NABR commends the Agency for its ongoing efforts to reduce the regulatory burden on registrants and licensees by removing the requirement for maintaining training records for those personnel who will have defined responsibilities for the implementation of a facility’s contingency plan.”