Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What USDA Accreditation Means for a Veterinarian

I spent a portion of my day off today in Harrisburg at the PA Dept of Agriculture to become USDA accredited in THIS state.  I have been accredited in NJ since I started practicing, but since I work in PA now, I wanted (and needed) to get it done here too.  

What does this mean and why do it? 

Well, it's completely voluntary and free. One doesn't need to be USDA accredited to practice medicine in any state.

What it does for us is that is authorizes us to perform official regulatory functions and essentially gives us the authority to represent the state and Federal government in matters of animal (and sometimes public) health.  

The common things that it's needed for are interstate and international health certificates. This can be shipping a dog to Germany, flying cats to California, sending show horses to Japan or beef cattle to Turkey. You cannot do this if you are NOT accredited. In some cases, it is vital to have  pre-shipping blood tests. An examination within a defined time-frame is ALWAYS required.  Each country has specific requirements. It is OUR job to find those out and carry out what needs to be done. Even if Ms. Smith has taken her cat to Paris EVERY year, we need to check  each time. 

Another key is that as soon as the owner or client knows they need to ship or move animals, they need to tell us. There are some cases (notably rabies-free islands like the UK, NZ and Hawaii) that may require quite a bit of lead time to get all the "ducks in a row" to have that animal arrive and NOT end up in a LONG quarantine.  

Failure, on our part, to properly perform these duties and functions, including errors on paperwork CAN be serious and in some cases, not only cause our accreditation to be revoked but threaten our license to practice. This generally takes unethical behavior (example: instead of taking blood from each animal in a herd you are shipping, you take it from one - get a large amount - and just put it in different tubes labelled with different animal ID's). Yes that did happen. AND it resulted in an outbreak across state lines. AND that vet did lose their license, as well as faced fines and some jail time. 

There are two main classifications of accreditation: 

Class I is for those working on  cats, dogs, pocket pets, reptiles and amphibians (it does NOT include birds of any kind including parrots, etc).

Class II is all of those PLUS horses, cows, sheep, goats, zoo animals, birds, etc.

If you have a Class I accreditation, you cannot, for example, do your friend or client a favor and sign health certificates so their kids can show the goats at the State fair. 

For this reason (and many more examples I could think of), I am Class II. I like to keep my options open and I never know when a client, friend, etc might need me to help them out.

You also need to be accredited in the state where you are performing the work/duties. If a client who lives in MD brings her cat to me at my office in PA, I can sign a health certificate. But is she asks me to go to her farm in MD to sign certificates or do any other regulatory testing, etc on her horses there I cannot do it without being accredited in MD.

We also have to report certain regulated diseases (but any vet should do this ethically!). 

Yesterday I discussed FMD. This is considered a foreign animal disease. The US is FMD free. If FMD is found in this country, it would be result in a major effort of many regulatory groups to stop it's devastating spread. 
But given the amount of travel that humans and animals (of all kinds) do these days, it would be very easy for one animal to bring something into this country or state.  This is why OUR vigilance is so vital. 

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