The USDA disclosed in a 2010 news release that in order to “provide a greater deterrent to violating the AWA (Animal Welfare Act)” a new table of heightened penalty guidelines was developed and completed in July 2010 under orders from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Missing, however, in this announcement was the actual breakdown of how penalties for violations are structured and calculated.
In an era of increasing regulatory burdens and shrinking funding for our nation’s research institutions, it is imperative to understand the methodology behind potential disciplinary actions where fines are a component. The public has a right to know how fines are calculated for potential violations of the AWA. Several attempts were made by NABR to request this information directly from USDA under the Freedom of Information Act, which were subsequently denied each time.
NABR has since reached out to Congress and made them aware of this lapse in transparency. Over twenty members of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have written directly to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that this information be made public in the interest of preserving a fair regulatory environment. To date, the information has not been released but NABR continues to work with Congress and to explore other opportunities to help its members understand the reasoning behind USDA penalties.