FAQ for Inspectors

Below is a list of commonly asked questions that are relevant to both current and potential accreditation and certification inspectors.​​​​​​​

What are the criteria for becoming an accreditation inspector?

  • Must hold Individual membership in AZA (Professional Fellow or Professional Affiliate members preferred)
  • Must be employed at (or retired from) an AZA-accredited institution
  • Must have a minimum of 5 years’ experience in a mid to high level position in the profession
  • Must have support of current employer and supervisor
  • Must be actively involved in the profession and in AZA
  • Must stay current regarding AZA Accreditation Training
  • Must have expertise and experience to fulfill responsibilities in one of the three roles on the inspection team: Operations, Animal Management, or Veterinary Medicine
  • Current position held must fall under one of the three primary roles noted above as follows: [Operations: (Director, Deputy or Assistant Director, COO, or similar), Animal Management: (Curator, Director of Animal Operations, or similar), Veterinary Medicine: (Veterinarian)]
  • Must be able to maintain impartiality
  • Must be able to maintain confidentiality
  • Must have good written and oral communication skills

Are there any exceptions to those criteria?

Yes, exceptions can be made by the Chair of the Accreditation Commission or by the Vice President of Accreditation Programs.

What are the three primary roles of accreditation inspectors, and what areas are covered by each?

  • Operations: Zoo or aquarium operations, governing authority, staff, facilities, finance, guest experience, safety/security, conservation, education, research, and support organization
  • Curatorial/Animal Management: The animals, husbandry, facilities, safety/security, staff, conservation, education, and research
  • Veterinary Medicine: Veterinary care, the animals, nutrition, staff, facilities, safety/security, and research

As an inspector, how are my travel expenses covered?

The host institution is responsible for all costs incurred as a result of their accreditation inspection. However, initially, each team member must cover his/her own costs out-of-pocket and is reimbursed in-full by AZA after the site visit is concluded. Each team member must submit copies of original receipts for all expenses to AZA within 30 days of the inspection using the reimbursement form supplied. Reimbursable expenses include transportation, parking, lodging, meals, postage, and any other reasonable cost associated with the inspection. If you are uncertain about an expense, check with the AZA accreditation department.

What are the criteria for selection as a Team Chair?

  • Basic criteria for service as an accreditation inspector (see above)
  • Participation as member of an inspection team at a minimum of two different institutions
  • Involvement in accreditation process of own institution (preferred, not required)
  • Strong leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to write and organize reports
  • Willingness to organize visit and facilitate discussion with team members and with staff of the host institution
  • Ability to meet required deadlines and follow instructions for compiling the final report to the Commission

What are the responsibilities of the Team Chair?

  • Act as the team's leader, and take charge of seeing that goals are set and accomplished
  • Schedule the trip
  • Allow sufficient time for the inspection
  • Work with the host institution to determine hotel arrangements
  • Provide advance notice to staff and others with whom you wish to meet during the inspection
  • Contact the Primary Reviewer before you go
  • Request additional materials from the applicant if missing from the institution’s submission
  • Establish roles and responsibilities for each team member prior to the inspection
  • Schedule sufficient time for the inspection team to meet privately with each other before the inspection
  • Make note of any policies or documents the team believes to be particularly well done, and call these to the attention of AZA accreditation staff for consideration is the AZA Accreditation Resource Center
  • Plan sufficient time for meetings with staff, members of the governing authority, members of the support organization, and/or volunteers
  • Obtain the signatures of the Visiting Committee members on the Report Form prior to departing from the inspection
  • Provide a copy of the list of concerns to the Vice President, Accreditation Programs and Primary Reviewer as soon as possible upon returning from the inspection
  • Make certain that the cover letter, report form, and narrative report are prepared correctly and submitted by the established deadline

When do inspections occur?

Inspections occur two times annually. For those institutions appearing before the Commission in March, inspections generally occur sometime between October and January. For those institutions appearing before the Commission in September, inspections generally occur sometime between April and July. Inspectors are confirmed in the weeks prior to those cycles.

How are inspection dates determined?

Once the inspection team has been assembled and confirmed, the Team Chair will determine the dates of the inspection in consultation with team members and the institution's CEO/Director. Inspections can range anywhere from 2-5 days in length, based on institution size and complexity.

How many inspectors make up a Visiting Committee?

Visiting Committees range in size from 2-4 inspectors, based upon the size of the institution and complexity of operations.

What are my responsibilities pre-inspection?

  • It is extremely important when scheduling your trip to make sure that you are available to the team throughout the entire inspection process.
  • Make certain to thoroughly review the previous team's inspection report and list of concerns to ensure that all items of concern that were listed at that time are no longer an issue.
  • Begin studying the institution's current application materials as soon as possible. There is a tremendous amount of material and all team members must be fully familiar with all of it well before the actual inspection.

What are my responsibilities during the on-site inspection?

  • Perform a thorough evaluation of the entire institution, focusing on the primary focus areas.
  • Communicate lesser concerns with the institution Director daily.
  • Interview staff at all levels.
  • Take many photographs that present an accurate overview of the physical institution as it exists, and as seen through the eyes of its daily visitors. Include all aspects of your inspection, both positive and negative.
  • Complete the Report Form and participate in a post-inspection team meeting.
  • Create a list of concerns to provide to the institution Director.
  • Perform an exit interview with the institution Director.

What are my responsibilities post-inspection?

  • Complete the reimbursement form, attach receipts, and submit to AZA.
  • Assist your fellow team members in preparing the cover letter, Report Form, and Narrative report.
  • Dispose of the application materials.

What are the primary focus areas of the Visiting Committee?

  • Animal Care, Welfare, and Management
  • Veterinary Care
  • Conservation
  • Education and Interpretation
  • Research
  • Governing Authority
  • Staff
  • Support Organization
  • Finance
  • Physical Facilities
  • Safety/Security
  • Guest Services
  • Other Programs/Activities

Does the Visiting Committee's recommendation determine the outcome of accreditation?

No. The recommendation of the Visiting Committee is only one piece in the process. The Commission considers many things in making its decision, including:

  • six months of reviewing documents, records, policies, practices, and all materials submitted by the institution;
  • the previous inspection report and concerns;
  • the current inspection report and concerns;
  • the team's recommendation based on the state of the institution at that time;
  • the number and nature of noted concerns;
  • the institution's response to noted concerns;
  • verifiable information received from outside sources;
  • information gained during the hearing;
  • the state of the institution at present.

It is important to understand that the decision regarding the granting, tabline, or denial of accreditation rests solely with the Accreditation Commission - and is not the responsibility of the inspection team. The inspection team makes a recommendation which is based on what is learned and observed at the time of the inspection. The responsibility for the outcome of each case is borne solely by the Accreditation Commission and the institution itself.

The Commission will grant accreditation when it is reasonably satisfied that the applicant institution meets the standards and requirements of an accredited institution. The Commission may table an institution's materials if it determines that certain conditions must be met or additional information submitted before the institution can be considered as meeting accreditation standards. Finally, the Commission will deny accreditation when an institution does not meet the minimum requirements to be recognized as an accredited institution at the present time and, in its opinion, would require in excess of one year to successfully do so.

What happens to the institution's application materials when I am finished with them?

Once you no longer need them, the institution's materials should be destroyed, or they may be returned directly to the institution at the time of the inspection. Do not return them to AZA.

What kind of training is available for accreditation inspectors?

Inspector training sessions are held at each AZA Annual Conference and periodically at AAZV Conferences. These sessions are usually headed by the Vice President, Accreditation Programs and members of the Accreditation Commission. The training sessions include an overview of the accreditation process, requirements and responsibilities of inspectors, and clarification of standards as well as a question and answer session. The Inspector's Handbook is also a wonderful resource of information for current and potential inspectors. It is anticipated that additional training may be required in the future.

What happens if I have gone more than three years without participating in a training session?

Although it is recommended that all inspectors participate in a training session at least once every three years, if you have gone longer than this amount of time you will not be automatically disqualified to participate, but steps should be taken to rectify the situation as soon as possible. Please contact AZA for more information.

Was your question not answered here?

For additional information please read the Inspector's Handbook or contact AZA Accreditation Programs.

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