Making the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) mandatory would allow for the quick control of diseases entering the food supply, W. Ron DeHaven, CEO and executive vice-president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) told Congress this week. Currently it is a voluntary program in which about 35% of livestock operations in the U.S. have registered AVMA says a mandatory animal ID tracking system would be the most effective way to minimize an animal disease outbreak.

Administered by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), NAIS is an information system under which food animals are tagged so their movements can be tracked in the event of a disease outbreak. The speedy turnaround could save millions of animal lives and billions of dollars, as well as shield public health and U.S. trade from profound damages, DeHaven told Congress.

"The U.S. cannot afford to wait for a crisis to make a mandatory animal identification system a reality," DeHaven said.

DeHaven says AVMA fully supports a national livestock ID system. “We're asking veterinarians, particularly those working with livestock, to become involved in the NAIS program, to register their own hospitals in addition to their premises and animals, and also to encourage their clients to register their animals and premises. No one carries more credibility with animal owners than veterinarians."