Health Certificate Deadline Comes and Goes. Did Your Vet Notice?

Today as I was cleaning my office I came upon a calendar note. August 1 was the "APHIS deadline". APHIS stands for the Animal and...


Today as I was cleaning my office I came upon a calendar note. August 1 was the “APHIS deadline”.

APHIS stands for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture. The APHIS oversees the issuance of animal health certificates for interstate (or international) travel.

Veterinary health certificates are very important documents for herds of cattle that are transported across state lines to feed lots or slaughterhouses. The introduction of some diseases to new areas would be economically devastating. Vets inspect herds; trucks or trains carrying the animals must also carry the appropriate paperwork for the herd to move across state lines.

Cats and dogs also need health certificates for interstate travel. Or rather, they do in theory. Most people I know who travel with their pets say that the documents rarely are checked. And since the US does not currently have any potential feline or canine plagues lurking in the shadows, I’m not convinced that feline and canine health certificates do much to protect the public interest.

Every vet I know hates writing health certificates. They are fraught with peril because they involve the whims and caprices of state or national governments.

Like any bureaucracy, the APHIS is utterly convinced of its usefulness and purpose. And like every bureaucracy, the APHIS never makes anything easier for anybody. The August 1 deadline is a perfect example of over-inflated bureaucratic self importance.

During my last year of vet school my classmates and I sat through an unbelievably boring afternoon of lectures given by the APHIS. We then took a test (which everyone passed) and became certified to issue animal health certificates. The certification was to be valid for as long as we were licensed.

This year, however, the APHIS decided to shake things up. The APHIS made all vets re-apply for certification. We also will have to re-apply every few years in the future and, worst of all, attend continuing education (CE) on the matter of health certificates. I generally love CE, but I am confident that APHIS-sponsored CE will be unbelievably, mind-numbingly boring.

The re-application process was a nuisance, but at least there was no fee (yet). The deadline to re-apply was August 1; any vet who did not meet this deadline is (or will soon be) no longer eligible to issue health certificates.

The deadline and the need to re-apply were not well publicized. I am sure that many vets never had any idea that they needed to take any actions. I wonder how many of them will continue to issue health certificates illegally in blissful ignorance of the new regulations.

If you go to your vet for a health certificate, be sure to confirm that he or she is still eligible to issue the document legally. An improperly issued health certificate could ruin your trip.

Photo by Axwel.

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