For horse owners and independent veterinarians researching local and regional veterinary diagnostic laboratories (VDLs), there is a consider list of potential credentials, accreditations, certifications, awards, and memberships that these vet labs may hold. Some of them are mandatory for certain lab diagnostic services. Some may not be relevant to the common horse owner at all. We wanted to provide a summary list of these credentials and organizations, so that horse owners and vet professionals can quickly reference what these credentials and accreditations mean.
Note: These organizations do not include GlobalVetLink or Veterinary Services Process Streamlining (VSPS) managed by the USDA. We’ve created a separate resource page for these online reporting systems.
American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD)
The AAVLD has established and enforces the most comprehensive set of standards and best practices for veterinary diagnostic labs. Their accreditation requires vet labs to follow specific guidelines and policies for administrative, management, and technical lab requirements. They also maintain and publish a list of AAVLD-accredited laboratories, so that horse owners and other veterinarians can verify claims by a vet lab that they are accredited.
APHIS-Approved Laboratories (APHIS)
The AAVLD may offer the most comprehensive set of standards, but arguably, APHIS-approved laboratories are even more important, especially when it comes to equine infectious anemia (EIA) Coggins testing. Whether a veterinary diagnostic lab says that it is federally-accredited, USDA-certified, or APHIS-approved, this is the accreditation they’re referring to. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) oversees these laboratory standards for regulatory diseases and federally-mandated lab testing. Moreover, these standards and APHIS approval are issued for individual lab tests. In other words, just because a veterinary lab is APHIS-approved for EIA testing doesn’t mean that it’s also approved to test for equine viral arteritis.
This isn’t an association or membership that vet clinics or equine practitioners can join. Rather these are the laboratories that were established and are actively managed by APHIS. There are two such laboratories in the country: The main lab is located in Ames, Iowa, while the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) is in Plum Island, New York. These federal vet labs are the model for other VDLs seeking to become APHIS-approved laboratories. They are also responsible for leading and managing the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) program.
National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN)
Managed by APHIS and NVSL, this is a program specifically designed to enhance the nation’s ability to detect, respond to, and recover from animal health emergencies, whether the threat stands to significantly harm the country’s economy and agricultural production or whether it’s a zoonotic health emergency that threatens the public health directly. The principal resource of this network is a partnership of 60 federal, state, and university-based animal laboratories that are capable of coordinating and triaging animal testing protocols to monitor present-day threats and to respond to actual animal health emergencies as they develop.
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
The AVMA is the main industry association for vet practitioners of all disciplines. They have a membership program that provides resources and fosters a sense of community among veterinarians across the country. They offer veterinary guidance and policies, including several resources specific to equines. They do not maintain official standards or accreditation for members. However, they do have several awards programs that recognizes excellence in specific areas of the veterinary field. Thus, your vet clinic may list any AVMA awards it has received.
American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP)
The AAEP is primarily a resource for equine vet practitioners and is closely associated with the AVMA. They do maintain a membership program of licensed vets, veterinary residents, and vet students. They also issue ethical and professional guidelines for equine practitioners, but there is no formal certification program with official standards and requirements. Still, vet clinics and professionals who belong to the AAEP do have exclusive access to resources that can help delivery a higher standard of equine care.
Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI)
This non-profit membership organization, the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) fosters collaboration among the global laboratory community toward the goal of excellence in laboratory medicine. There are other organizations that focus on veterinary laboratories and diagnostics, but Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute offers additional Quality Assurance through general laboratory standards and inspections.
Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks (ICLN)
The ICLN coordinates federally sponsored analytical laboratory services for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents. The ICLN does this through planning, identifying resources, providing laboratory surge capacity support, and defining key process steps for information exchange and data sharing. During an incident, whether it’s related to animal health or not, they are able to communicate and coordinate with the NAHLN and other agencies to leverage the full capacity of the nation’s laboratory resources.