USDA to Offer Incentive for Self-Reporting Noncompliance

USDA is offering an incentive for facilities to proactively identify, report, and correct animal welfare issues. According to a notice published in December, APHIS Animal Care (AC) inspectors will not issue citations for noncompliance reported by facilities when certain criteria are met. At the same time, USDA underscored that such self-reporting is voluntary.

“Non-critical” noncompliance involves issues that do not impact animal welfare. To avoid a USDA citation for non-critical items, the problem must be identified promptly through the institution’s own compliance monitoring; the institution must take immediate corrective action; and it must put measures in place to prevent recurrences.

In some cases, facilities may even be able to avoid citations for critical non-compliant items, i.e., those that may impact animal welfare. The criteria for this include:

  • The institution has not had either a repeat or a critical noncompliance identified on a USDA inspection during the preceding 12 months;
  • The institution promptly discovered the noncompliance through the its own compliance monitoring program;
  • The item in question does not involve the same section and subsection of the AWA regulations that was cited during the preceding 24 months;
  • The institution took immediate corrective action and established measures to prevent recurrence; and
  • The institution reported the issue to USDA either orally or in writing “promptly,” i.e., within days of discovering the problem.

If the incident involves noncompliance and the facility meets these criteria, Animal Care will not cite the issue on the next inspection, but it will make an internal note of the voluntary report with the facility’s customer number, the date the voluntarily-reported incident occurred, and the section and subsection of the applicable AWA regulation or standard. This record-keeping requirement has raised concerns that non-cited, self-reported incidents could be made public through FOIA requests.