The federal "Laboratory Animal Welfare Act" was passed by Congress in 1966, in response to vocal public concerns about the theft and sale of pet animals for research purposes, and concerns about the housing and treatment of animals in research facilities. The Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), was given the responsibility for implementing the Act. Animal dealers and research facilities were required to be licensed by or registered with USDA.The AWA requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public. Individuals who operate facilities in these categories must provide their animals with adequate care and treatment in the areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather and temperatures. Although Federal requirements establish acceptable standards, they are not ideal. Regulated businesses are encouraged to exceed the specified minimum standards.
The original Act provided coverage of only six animal species under the definition of "animal": dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and nonhuman primates. To this date, the Act does not provide coverage of those species which comprise 90% of all animals used in research, teaching, and testing - namely rats and mice.
The Act was amended in 1970, at which time it was renamed the "Animal Welfare Act" [AWA] (P.L. 91-579), and provided for regulatory coverage of animal use prior to, during, and after experimentation. That amendment also extended coverage to wild, warm-blooded vertebrate species used in research. The AWA was again amended in 1976, setting standards for and licensure of common carriers involved in the transport of covered animal species. Finally, in 1985 the AWA was amended by the "Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act" (P.L. 99-198), with a number of significant advancements/requirements:
A requirement for the CEO to appoint an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee [IACUC];
Mandatory IACUC review/approval of all proposals involving covered species;
IACUC inspection of animal facilities every 6 months;
The provision of training of all personnel handling/caring for or using animals;
Establishment of a Program of Veterinary Care;
Implementation and documentation of programs for assuring adequate exercise for dogs; and,
Implementation and documentation of programs for assuring the provision of "environmental enrichment" for nonhuman primates.
Farm animals used for biomedical research were included in a subsequent amendment (refer to USDA-APHIS-Animal Care Policy #26 and Policy #29 here). USDA-APHIS-AC has adopted two guides, the "Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Research and Teaching", published by the Federation of Animal Science Societies, and the "Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals", published by the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR), as the basis for provision of husbandry and veterinary care for farm animal species used in biomedical research).
In addition to providing the required standards of veterinary care and animal husbandry, regulated research facilities must provide dogs with the opportunity for exercise and promote the psychological well-being of primates used in laboratories. Researchers must also give regulated animals anesthesia or pain-relieving medication to minimize the pain or distress caused by research if the experiment allows. The AWA also forbids the unnecessary duplication of a specific experiment using regulated animals. Research facilities must establish an institutional animal care and use committee [IACUC] to oversee the use of regulated animals in teaching, testing, and research. This committee is responsible for ensuring that the facility remains in compliance with the AWA and for providing documentation of all areas of compliance to APHIS. The committee must be composed of at least three members, including one veterinarian and one person who is not affiliated with the facility in any way.
You can view the chapters of the Animal Care Regulations (01-01-2006 Edition, Title 9 CFR - Animals and Animal Products) that pertain to the IACUC, USDA regulatory compliance, animal welfare, and animal housing in research and teaching institutions, by clicking on the links below:
You can view a copy of the Title 7 Animal Welfare Act pertaining to recordkeeping, registration, transportation, and identification of animals by dealers, exhibitors, research facilities, intermediate handlers, and carriers (Chapter 54 - Transportation, Sale and Handling of Certain Animals, Sec. 2131, updated January 27, 2006) by clicking here.