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The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for protecting animal health, animal welfare, and plant health. APHIS is the lead agency for collaboration with other agencies to protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and diseases. APHIS is the National Plant Protection Authority for the U.S. government, and the agency's head of veterinary services is Chief Veterinary Officer of the United States.
APHIS was created in 1972 by Secretary’s Memorandum No. 1769.
The origins of the agency predate creation of USDA, to 1854 when the Office of Entomologist, Agricultural Section, U.S. Patent Office was created. It was the first of three agencies that eventually were merged to form APHIS. In 1881, a Cattle Commission was created in the Department of the Treasury that three years later was transferred to USDA. Plant quarantine functions followed in 1912 when USDA's Federal Horticultural Board was created. Between the 1880s and 1930s these evolved into the USDA Bureaus of Entomology, of Animal Industry, and of Plant Quarantine, respectively.
In 1953 the three bureaus were combined into the Agricultural Research Service. In 1971, the animal and plant regulatory functions were separated from ARS to create a new entity known as Animal and Plant Health Services. In 1972, the meat and poultry inspection divisions of the Consumer and Marketing Service (later known as the Agricultural Marketing Service) were added to APHS, thus creating the contemporary APHIS.
APHIS is the primary agency responsible for responding to animal and plant disease(s)and pest emergencies as well as to other emergencies as set forth by the National Response Plan (NRP) completed in 2005 (APHIS Strategic Plan 2003-2008).
The originally stated purpose of APHIS is to “protect the animal and plant resources of the nation” and carry out “a poultry and meat inspection program.” A more modern articulation of APHIS’s mission is “protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.”
APHIS aims to protect American animals, plants, and the agricultural industry by offering:
The threats and challenges within APHIS' scope include:
APHIS is granted specific authority under several federal statutes:
Animal Health Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. § 8301 et seq. Governs the prevention, detection, control, and eradication of diseases and pests of animals, where "animal" is defined as "any member of the animal kingdom (except a human)." 7 U.S.C. § 8302 (1) (West 2009).
Animal Welfare Act (Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966), 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq. Originally intended to prevent the theft of pets for sale to research facilities, the AWA now broadly regulates minimum standards of care and treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. It exempts birds, rats, or mice bred for use in research, horses not used for research, cold blooded animals, and all farm animals used in the production of “food and fiber.” It provides for licensing and registration of all animal dealers and exhibitors.
Horse Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1821–1831 Prohibits horses subjected to a process called “soring” (injecting or applying chemicals to a horse’s forelegs to accentuate its gait) from participating in and being transported to exhibitions, sales, shows, or auctions.
Animal Damage Control Act of March 2, 1931, 7 U.S.C. §§ 426–426c Provides broad authority for investigation, demonstrations and control of “injurious animal species” (mammalian predators, rodents and birds.) Amended in 1991 to prevent the inadvertent introduction of brown tree snakes into other areas of the United States from Guam.
Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371–3378 Makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase any fish or wildlife or plant taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law, treaty, or regulation of the United States or in violation of any Indian tribal law whether in interstate or foreign commerce.
Plant Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. § 7701 et seq. Consolidates all or part of ten existing USDA plant health laws into one comprehensive law. Gives USDA the authority to regulate and to prohibit or restrict the importation, exportation, and the interstate movement of plants, plant products, certain biological control organisms, noxious weeds, and plant pests.
Federal Seed Act, Title III, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1551–1611 Requires accurate labeling and purity standards for seeds in commerce, and prohibits the importation and movement of adulterated or misbranded seeds.
Honeybee Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 281–286 Prohibits or restricts the importation or entry of honeybees and honeybee semen into or through the United States in order to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases and parasites harmful to honeybees, as well as genetically undesirable germ plasm and undesirable bee species.
Animal quarantine laws: 21 U.S.C. § 101 allows the President, by proclamation, to suspend the importation of all or any class of animals for a limited time, whenever, in his opinion, it is necessary for the protection of animals in the United States against infectious or contagious diseases.
21 U.S.C. § 113a authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to establish research facilities for hoof and mouth disease and other animal diseases which “in the opinion of the Secretary” constitute a threat to U.S. livestock. Mandates strict controls for the use of any live virus at such research facilities. Permits the Secretary to hire up to five technical experts or scientists at a maximum paygrade of GS-18. (This appears to be one of the most prescriptive statutes that USDA administers.)
APHIS is divided into six operational programs units:
APHIS is also divided into three management support units (Legislative and Public Affairs, Marketing and Regulatory Programs Business Services, and Policy and Program Development), and two offices that support government-wide initiatives: the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and Office of Civil Rights Enforcement and Compliance.
The current APHIS Administrator, Mr. Kevin Shea, was appointed in June 2013. His immediate predecessor, Dr. Greg Parham, was appointed in April 2011.
The Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services also functions as Chief Veterinary Officer of the United States, and represents the U.S. Government at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) is the National Plant Protection Authority; the Deputy Administrator for PPQ represents the United States in the North American Plant Protection Organization and other international fora related to plant health and quarantine.
In addition to its domestic operations, APHIS International Services staff several overseas offices, including veterinary and plant health attachés in U.S. diplomatic missions as well as technicians carrying out disease and pest eradication and control programs.
APHIS has a budget of approximately $800 million annually and employs about 7,000 people, about 5,000 of which are deployed as inspectors at ports, borders and on farms.