In the wake of reports of USDA abuses and failure to follow rules, some people are worried about what to do if the USDA or State Agriculture Department shows up at their property and alleges that they have diseased animals. THE FOLLOWING IS NOT OFFERED AS LEGAL OR MEDICAL ADVICE. These are simply some thoughts about the options. Each person should find a local attorney and veterinarian to help them make decisions about their animals and their rights.
- Plan ahead. Have the following names and phone numbers written down in your wallet:
A. A veterinarian you trust who is willing to come out at any time. Preferably, have two veterinarians available, one of which is government-certified for the major disease(s) of concern in your state.
B. A local attorney.
C. The local newspaper or TV news station. Make some direct contacts now, by talking to them about the NAIS issue.
D. A trusted neighbor or two. Arrange for a “phone tree” ahead of time among a few neighbors, so that you can ask a couple of calm, level-headed people to come to your place to act as witnesses as to what is happening. It is critical that everyone stay calm.
- Keep good records on your animals, especially records of animal purchases, testing, and health records. Have backups of all documents, kept separately from your main files, so that you will still have a copy if they take your files and computer.
- Ask the USDA or State Ag agent for their name, title, and specific basis for their visit to your property. Ask if anyone has filed a complaint against you.
- Ask to see the warrant. If they do not have a warrant, you may choose to allow them in or you may choose to state that you are refusing to allow them onto your property. If you refuse and they come onto your property anyway, ask them for the specific statute and regulation under which they claim authority. Immediately write it down or, preferably, have a small tape deck or video recorder that you can use to record the response.
- Do not rely on oral statements about testing results, quarantine procedures, depopulation procedures, compensation, etc. Ask for a written statement on all of these issues from the agents.
- Ask that your veterinarian be allowed to draw samples for independent testing of any alleged disease. If they refuse, ask for a written statement or record their response with a tape or video recorder.
- If they hand you something to sign, read it very carefully. If the signature only acknowledges receipt of the document, it may make sense to sign it. But if the signature indicates that you agree with the contents of the document, do not sign unless you truly agree with what the document states, including the fine print.
- If they state that the animals must be taken away or killed, be prepared to make a decision: do you agree that this is necessary? If you do not agree, talk with your attorney and veterinarian.
- If they insist on taking or killing your animals without your consent, document what they do with photos and/or a video camera.
- It may be helpful to make notes immediately after the event, while it is all fresh in your memory. Stick strictly to the facts – what happened, what was said, etc. Do not include any personal opinions, background, or anything else.
Again, this is NOT intended as legal or medical advice. Each person needs to find a local attorney and veterinarian to help them make decisions about their animals and their rights.
To learn more about what USDA and State Ag departments are doing, visit