Under Vermont law, the Agency of Agriculture has specific legal authorities and responsibilities in animal welfare cases. The Agency's scope of authority is generally dictated by the species of animal and its use.
The Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets' Animal Health Section must be consulted by humane or other law enforcement officers in cases of alleged animal welfare violations that involve livestock and poultry species. Title 13 of the Vermont statutes requires that this consultation occur prior to the time that a humane agent brings any enforcement action against an owner of a livestock animal. This consultation with the Agency is required because under Vermont law, animal cruelty laws may not apply to certain acceptable livestock and poultry husbandry practices. It is the Agency's legal responsibility to provide guidance to the law enforcement community. The Agency's Animal Health Section personnel are available to assist humane and law enforcement agents for purposes of determining if a situation represents an acceptable husbandry practice. However, Animal Health Section personnel do not have any enforcement authority in alleged cases of animal welfare violations.
Commercial Dairy Farms
Animal Health Section personnel may also work closely with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's dairy inspectors to provide welfare-related technical assistance to owners and managers of commercial dairy farms that are otherwise regulated by the Agency. In the event that this technical assistance does not result in an acceptable outcome, the state veterinarian may refer the case to a humane agent for further investigation and enforcement action if deemed necessary.
Animal Health Section personnel inspect companion animal facilities such as animal shelters, pet shops and rescue organization animal housing facilities on a regular basis. If an animal welfare violation is observed during an inspection, a referral will be made to the humane agent with jurisdiction of the municipality where the business is located for investigation and enforcement action if deemed necessary.
To report an animal welfare issue of concern or to learn more about Vermont's Cruelty Response System, contact the Vermont Humane Federation.
Questions regarding the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's role in animal welfare cases should be directed to the Animal Health Office.