Legislative Post Audit Overview:

Deficiencies in the Kansas Dept. of Agriculture (“KDA”)

Animal Facilities Inspection Program (“AFI”)

Executive Summary

On December 13, 2018, the Legislative Post Audit Committee (“LPA”) released its performance evaluation of the KDA’s AFI (the “Report”).[1]  LPA’s most remarkable finding –AFI fully addressed only one of the five problem findings from its 2002 audit.”[2]  The inescapable conclusion based on this fact alone:  (1) the safety and welfare of the animals AFI exists to protect are not a priority; and (2) there is no reason to believe that AFI will adopt significant changes based on the most recent audit.  The failure of a single inspector or manager from AFI to attend LPA’s presentation of its findings to the legislative committee and AFI’s tepid written response to LPA’s recommendations re-enforce this conclusion. [3]  

LPA analyzed three areas related to AFI: (1) adequacy of policy and procedures; (2) management oversight and staffing; and (3) improvement in commercial breeding conditions since the 2002 LPA audit.  Consistent with its 2002 audit findings, LPA identified significant, and now long-standing, deficiencies in AFI policies and procedures as well as management oversight. In short, LPA concluded that AFI does not provide sufficient training, policies or procedures to ensure that inspections are consistent, timely and consequential. 

AFI blames many of its shortcomings on lack of funding and resources. However, AFI collects more in annual license fees than its current $425,000 budget. Accordingly, any reallocation of resources to subsidize other divisions within KDA simply reflects the fact that AFI is not a priority. In fact, when the LPA suggested a new investigative position be added to AFI, KDA expressed no appetite to actually engage the legislature on this issue.[4]

Deficiency Overview

  1.  Deficiencies in AFI policies and procedures related to ensuring consistent inspections and appropriate penalties: 

    • AFI has no policy or inadequate policies to address 11 of the 16 main categories of animal facility requirements (e.g., adequate space, feeding, temperature, etc.)

    • AFI policy lacks adequate guidance to ensure inspections are consistent.

    • Inspectors are given great discretion to deviate from policies regarding penalties without guidance on when it is acceptable to do so; allowing facilities to operate for longer than they should.

    • AFI policy does not adequately address best practices related to legal enforcement and penalties are not always consistent, appropriate or progressively severe. For example:

      • Despite having a policy to generally penalize facilities after 3 consecutive failed inspections, AFI did not consistently pursue penalties after the third consecutive failed inspection in 21 of 33 cases (64%) from 2013-2017 where a facility could have been penalized.[5}

      • LPA found one facility failed 8 consecutive inspections with serious and progressively worse violations that were negatively affecting animals prior to relinquishment of the animals.[6]

      • Although AFI has the authority to immediately seize animals when their health, safety or welfare is endangered, AFI has chosen not to do so in recent years resulting in animal health issues. [7]

  2.  Deficiencies related to management and staffing.

    • AFI needs to improve key processes related to program oversight and training necessary to ensuring it operates effectively. Current issues:

      • No set performance metrics for inspectors.

      • Statutorily required training for staff not offered for years.

      • No process for ensuring timely inspections. Instead, officials place a significant amount of trust and responsibility on staff to ensure AFI operates efficiently[8]

      • No process for ensuring facilities are penalized consistently.

      • Lack of management oversight likely contributes to late inspections and inconsistent penalties. For example, 50% of the re-inspections LPA sampled were late.[9]

    • AFI is slightly understaffed and should consider adding an investigative inspector.

  3.  Extent of Improvement since 2002 AFI Audit.

    • AFI has fully addressed only one (improperly issuing licenses) of the five problem findings from the 2002 audit.  Not addressed:

      • AFI still lacks a documented, well-defined and progressive system for assigning penalties to facilities.

      • AFI still did not complete a significant number of routine inspections, re-inspections or complaint inspections in a timely manner.

      • AFI only partially addressed the 2002 findings related to developing program policies and considering the seriousness of violations when completing inspections.

    • LPA was unable to evaluate how conditions in the commercial dog breeding facilities have changed since 2002 because AFI is not required to keep data on number of ill, injured, or deceased animals and without this data LPA could not complete the analysis.

Note, this failure, coupled with the lack of progress since the 2002 audit, smacks of a willful disregard by AFI of any level of performance oversight or accountability.

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  • [1] AFI is responsible for licensing and inspecting the state’s pet animal facilities which include breeders, pet stores, shelters and research facilities.  

  • [2] See Report page 14.

  • [3] Much to the dismay and irritation of the legislative committee members AFI sent a new lawyer for the department to attend the meeting on its behalf. Committee members have demanded a follow up session with AFI personnel present.

  • [4] See Report page 18 (letter dated December 4, 2018 from KDA to Justin Stowe).

  • [5] See Report page 5.

  • [6] See Report pages 5-7, including figure 1-3. LPA also noted on page 5 that it expected AFI “to take faster and more severe penalties against the facility based on the number and type of violations.”

  • [7] See Report page 7.

  • [8] Note, this a dubious strategy given inspectors are not provided statutorily required training and AFI policies and procedures have been identified as inadequate.

  • [9] Note, AFI claims this number is inflated due to no contacts but LPA methodology accounted for no contact inspections.  See Report page 16.