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USDA amends Animal Welfare Act licensing requirements

Changes streamline licensing process and reduce fees for fully compliant licensees and include additional updates to regulations for dogs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service announced a final rule amending the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licensing requirements for all regulated animals as well as certain veterinary care standards.

These new regulations will promote compliance, reduce licensing fees and strengthen safeguards that prevent individuals and businesses with a history of non-compliance from obtaining a license or doing any regulated activities with regulated animals, the announcement said.

With this change, licensees have to demonstrate compliance with the AWA and show that the animals in their possession are adequately cared for in order to obtain a license. The change also strengthens existing regulations to prevent individuals and businesses whose licenses were suspended or revoked from doing any regulated activities for regulated entities.

These changes will streamline the licensing process and reduce the regulatory burden for licensees who are fully compliant by reducing licensing fees and simplifying the payment process, USDA explained.

Finally, this final rule includes additional updates to the regulations for dogs by requiring any dealer, exhibitor or research facility with dogs to maintain a written program for veterinary care and medical records and to make those records available to USDA upon request.

The written program of veterinary care has to include regular visits by the attending veterinarian to conduct a complete physical examination of each dog no less than once a year, vaccinations for contagious and/or deadly diseases of dogs, internal and external parasite prevention and treatment and preventative care and treatment for hair coats, nails, eyes, ears, skin and teeth. In addition, the rule requires that dogs have potable water continuously available unless restricted by an attending veterinarian.

In 2017, USDA published an advance notice of proposed rule-making that asked the public for input on potential revisions to the AWA requirements to reduce the regulatory burden and more efficiently ensure sustained compliance. After carefully considering the more than 47,000 comments it received in response, USDA said, it issued a proposed rule in March 2019. The final rule incorporates feedback received through more than 110,600 comments on the proposed rule.

The final rule may be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2020-07837.

Each year, USDA licenses nearly 6,000, people who breed, sell or exhibit animals for commercial purposes and is responsible for ensuring that these licensees comply with the AWA's humane standards of care. These steps allow the American public to confidently purchase pets and view animals on public display, the announcement said.

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