Entities responsible for animals covered by the AWA will be required to establish and implement contingency planning for emergency response by USDA, APHIS once a proposed rule is finally adopted (see Docket No. APHIS-2020-0101).
Specifically, the rule would require regulated entities to establish and implement contingency planning by 180 days after the final rule has been adopted, train relevant staff within 60 days of establishing those contingency plans, but would not require regulated entities to document training of relevant staff.
However, if there was ever a question about whether or not staff was adequately trained, it would be much easier to prove compliance by providing documentation of such training.
The agency has identified the following benefits of contingency planning:
First, contingency planning can prevent loss of animal life and any resulting undisposed carcasses that pose a threat to public health. Second, loss of valuable research resources and income can be mitigated with contingency planning. Third, having a contingency plan can reduce the time of recovery from disasters and thus provide cost savings to the affected businesses and organizations and allow for business continuity. Finally, required contingency planning will reassure the general public that facilities have measures in place to ensure the welfare of the animals in times of catastrophic and common emergencies.
Research facilities, dealers, exhibitors, intermediate handlers, and carriers will be required to develop, document, and follow an appropriate plan to provide for the humane handling, treatment, transportation, housing, and care of their animals in the event of an emergency or disaster (one which could reasonably be anticipated and expected to be detrimental to the good health and well-being of the animals in their possession). They may use APHIS Form 7093 or develop their own documents.
USDA, APHIS, AC has created an optional form that entities may use to develop and document a contingency plan. See Draft Form 7093.
The plan, as included in the Form, requires licenses/registrants to: (1) identify the common risks to the entities animals, including formerly identified hazards; (2) identify tasks necessary to address/respond to such risks/hazards; (3) identify the persons responsible for performing each task; and (4) identify details needed to perform each task.
These contingency plans will likely be scrutinized, especially if an entity subject to an incident is unable to protect its residents completely, despite having comprehensive contingency plans. It is advisable that regulated entities consult with emergency preparedness officials familiar with the preparation of such plans, which are also intended to be evergreen. The intention is that contingency plans form the framework to be used and amended as needed during implementation in an unfolding emergent event. Therefore, the plans must include the flexibility needed to be most effective during an adverse event and should not state or imply that they will be 100% effective.
If you have concerns about the proposed rule, you should submit comments on or before August 24, 2021, by either of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov. Enter APHIS-2020-0101 in the Search field.
- Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2020-0101, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.