The Dog Journal

USDA Today

Is It Time for USDA Animal Care Licensees to Start Wearing a Body Worn Camera?


The times are changing. USDA Animal Care, a unit within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, administers the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This federal law establishes requirements concerning the transportation, sale, and handling of certain animals. To enforce this law USDA Animal Care uses Inspectors throughout the country providing unannounced inspections. These inspections are regularly posted on the web for the world to see.

Improved transparency

Understanding that a body-worn camera may result in better transparency and accountability and thus may improve the inspection process for both the licensee and the Inspectors. In many regulated industries, there is a lack of trust and confidence in the inspection process. This lack of confidence is exacerbated by some questions, comments and assertions between Inspectors and the regulated community. Video footage captured during these unannounced inspections might provide better documentation to help confirm the nature of events and support accounts articulated by Inspectors or the Licensees.

Increased civility 

People often change their behavior when they are informed that the encounter is being recorded. This “civilizing effect” may prevent certain situations from escalating and may improve interactions between Inspectors and Licensees. Body-worn cameras may also result in higher rates of AWA compliance to the Inspectors suggestions and criticisms during inspections and fewer complaints from Licensees about Inspectors behaviors.

Corroborating documentation

Footage captured may also be used as documentation in USDA’s Appeal Process. Proponents have suggested that video captured by body-worn cameras may help document the occurrence and nature of various types of non-compliances. If a licensee has video/ audio documentation, they should have more confidence in a process that reviews documentation and does not rely solely on the documentation that is being disputed. Having the words of the Inspector played back will provide context and content that the Inspection report alone my not provide. Training opportunities. The use of body-worn cameras also offers potential opportunities to advance compliance from the licensees. Having a recorded inspection allows the Licensee to review the inspection days, weeks and even months later. This “refresher” could remind them of the topics covered and suggestions offered by the Inspectors. Should a Licensee need to generate an appeal, the video of the inspection would give USDA the opportunity to find gaps in their consistency or training.

This article was written by Patrick Keith, a former USDA Compliance Specialist. For any questions regarding USDA compliance, you can contact Pat with Innovative Compliance and Coaching at 317-938-7600

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