PIJAC

USDA Announces Requirement for Contingency Plans to Protect Animals During Emergencies 

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We are sharing information about a change to Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations that may impact your business operations as they relate to caring for animals during emergencies. The revisions will better ensure that entities responsible for animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act are prepared to safeguard the health and welfare of such animals in the event of possible emergencies or disasters. 

Main points: 

  • Regulated facilities will now be required to proactively develop specific contingency plans via a fillable form to address steps they will take to safeguard their animals

  • They will be required to train their employees on implementing those plans during an emergency. 

  • As part of their plan, facilities need to identify types of emergencies common in the local area and that may impact their particular facility; establish a clear reporting chain of command for employees, as well as specific tasks they would need to undertake to protect their animals; and identify nearby auxiliary materials and resources essential to their animals’ welfare and where to locate them.  

  • Regulated facilities must be in compliance by 180 days after effective date of final rule which is January 3, 2022. They must provide training to personnel 60 days after the contingency plans are put in place. 

From the USDA’s announcement today, December 2, 2021:  

“The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final rule amending the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations to implement a requirement for contingency plans for the handling of animals during emergencies. This lifts a stay on a December 2012 rule that requires regulated facilities to develop contingency plans and train their employees on implementing those plans during an emergency.  

Past emergencies and disasters, such as hurricane Katrina and wildfires in the West, have shown the need for AWA-regulated facilities to have contingency plans at the ready to safeguard the welfare of—and even save the lives of—their animals. A critical part of ensuring animal welfare is making sure that facilities can continue to provide food, water, housing, protection and appropriate veterinary care for animals during an emergency, especially if facilities are damaged or animal handlers cannot get to the facility.   

As such, planning ahead is vital to being prepared for unforeseen emergencies or disasters, and under the final rule, regulated facilities are required to proactively develop specific, thought-out contingency plans via an easily fillable form to address steps they will take to safeguard their animals. 

As part of their plan, facilities need to identify types of emergencies common in the local area and that may impact their particular facility; establish a clear reporting chain of command for employees, as well as specific tasks they would need to undertake to protect their animals; and identify nearby auxiliary materials and resources essential to their animals’ welfare and where to locate them. Additionally, facilities will be required to train their employees on how to implement these plans. 

Just like families carefully plan how they will react and respond to emergencies or disasters that affect them, this rule will ensure regulated businesses take the time and care to think ahead of their animals’ welfare and ensure it’s a priority.   

APHIS is now issuing this final rule, with a few additional modifications, including updating the compliance dates listed in that stayed rule to 180 days after effective date of final rule; modifying the dates in the final rule regarding when facilities must provide training to personnel to 60 days after the contingency plans are put in place; and making minor editorial revisions to several sections of the stayed final rule to clarify APHIS’ intent. 

This final rule may be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-26174/handling-of-animals-contingency-plans.  It is effective January 3, 2022.” 

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Thank you for all you do to care for and protect animals as a member of the responsible pet care community. If you have any questions, please contact us at info@pijac.org or 202-452-1525.  

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