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Changes to USDA Licensing

Posted on: October 21st, 2020

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Its mission is to protect and promote agricultural health, manage activities intended to limit wildlife damage, and administer the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). As part of the terms of the AWA, organizations that buy or sell warm-blooded animals, use them for research, transport them commercially, or exhibit them to the public must become licensed by the USDA. This licensure helps ensure these facilities adhere to standards governing humane housing, handling, feeding, sanitation, and other living conditions provided for the animals.

The USDA has recently amended the licensing requirements governed by the AWA. The stated purpose of these changes is to:

Below is a summary of all the information you need to know regarding changes to USDA licensing. If you have questions regarding the new regulations, please refer to the USDA New Licensing Rule web page. For any other questions, the USDA APHIS page is an excellent resource.

Transition to a Three-Year USDA License

The biggest change associated with the new licensing requirements involves transitioning from a one-year USDA license to a three-year license. This will be a gradual process occurring over the next three years. Staggering the transition to three-year licenses will allow the USDA to complete the licensing process smoothly and on time.

Determining Your Transition Date to a Three-Year License

In August 2020, all current licensees were notified of the year they will transition to a three-year license. The process will occur in stages from 2021-2023. You will keep the same license expiration month and day when you make the transition.

Beginning November 9, 2020, all licensees will pay a $40 one-year license renewal fee in order to ensure their licensing is current through the start of the transition period. The transition to three-year licenses will occur on the following schedule:

During the year you receive your first three-year license, you’ll receive a notification via U.S. mail 120 days prior to your renewal month that your license is transitioning. The fee for a three-year license will be $120.

After November 9, 2020, any applicants who don’t have an existing USDA license must apply for a three-year license as part of the initial application process. In order to receive your license, you must pay all licensing fees and pass an inspection.

Obtaining Your Three-Year License

You can download a license application package online or call the Animal Care office in Fort Collins, CO at (970) 494-7478 to request an application. After November 9, 2020, the downloadable application form will work for three-year new licenses as well as one-year renewal licenses.

For renewal applications, download all forms here.

At the moment, you can’t apply online. You’ll need to send all application forms to:

USDA-APHIS-Animal Care
2150 Centre Avenue Building B
Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8177

You can call the Animal Care office number listed above or email animalcare@usda.gov if you have any questions.

You must submit your application and pay the $120 licensing fee at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your existing license to ensure your new three-year license is processed on time. In addition, all inspections must be passed prior to the expiration date of your existing license. If your license is expiring within 90 days and you haven’t received your notification in the mail yet, contact the Animal Care office in Fort Collins at (970) 494-7478 or email animalcare@usda.gov to expedite the process.

The license fee may be paid by:

Pre-License Inspections

You must pass a pre-licensing inspection prior to obtaining a new three-year license. All inspections are announced, and the date and time will be agreed upon in advance.

You have up to three chances to pass the pre-licensing inspection. All three inspections must occur within a 60-day time period. If you don’t demonstrate compliance with AWA regulation requirements on the first inspection, the USDA will inform you of the deficiencies that need to be addressed and outline the corrective measures that must be completed before reinspection.

If you haven’t demonstrated compliance with AWA requirements after your third pre-licensing inspection, you may file an appeal with the Deputy Administrator. The appeal must be received by the Deputy Administrator within 7 days of your receipt of the third pre-licensing inspection report. Your appeal must include:

You should mail your appeal to:

Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer
APHIS Animal Care (AC)
U.S. Department of Agriculture
4700 River Road/6D-03F
Riverdale, MD 20787

A written response will be issued within 7 days of the receipt of your appeal. If your appeal is denied, there may be other opportunities to appeal.

You can reapply for a license 6 months from the date of the failed inspection or 6 months from the expiration of the time to request an inspection.

Additional Inspections after Licensure

Additional inspections will be conducted after you receive your license. While you will be inspected at least once a year, the frequency of these inspections will vary based on:

Pre-License Inspection vs. Re-License Inspection

Facilities that are currently licensed will receive a re-license inspection instead of the pre-license inspection that is conducted before a license is initially issued. Both types of inspections require full compliance with AWA regulations. However, there are differences in the inspection process:

Impact of Changes to the Business on Licensure

Licenses are issued to specific:

Any changes in ownership, location, activities or animals will require a new license. You must notify Animal Care at least 90 days prior to making these types of changes to the business. In addition, you must obtain a new license before these changes can be finalized.

As part of the application process, you must include:

A new license must be obtained before any changes to the authorized number and type of animals can be made.


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