Animal Welfare Act

Public Law 89-544
The purchase, sale, housing, care, handling, treatment and transportation of animals used in teaching, research, exhibitions, and those sold as pets are regulated by authority granted in the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and its amendments. The Law is implemented in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 9, Chapter I, Subchapter A (Animal Welfare). Subchapter A serves as the USDA regulatory guide which defines the specific standards and requirements governing the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals. Failure to comply with these standards may lead to civil or criminal prosecution resulting in substantial fines and/or suspension of animal research activities. The Act specifically includes dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, all wild animal species, and any other warm-blooded animal which is being used or is intended for use in research, testing, experimentation, exhibition purposes, or being sold as pets. Specifically exempted are rats of the genus rattus and mice of the genus mus bred for use in research, and horses not used for research and other farm animals used for food, or livestock and poultry used for the improvement of animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production.

Recent amendments address such issues as exercise for dogs and care of non-human primates to ensure their psychological well-being. The composition and duties of an institutional animal care and use committee, adequate veterinary care and responsibilities of the attending veterinarian, training of all personnel using laboratory animals in humane methods of animal maintenance and experimentation, and record keeping are addressed.

As of August 21st, 2023, the USDA APHIS guidelines require anyone with a USDA registration to become compliant with new avian welfare regulations. According to these USDA guidelines, any free living wild avian that is part of a study that involves an invasive procedure, harm, materially altering behavior or one that is brought to live in captivity for more than 12 hours is covered by the USDA.

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for reviewing all protocols using animals to make certain the protocols meet criteria listed in the amendments. In addition, the IACUC must conduct semiannual inspections of all animal study areas and animal facilities. The importance of this requirement is underscored by the fact that the Chief Executive Officer of the institution must certify that the attending veterinarian and the animal care and use committee have the authority to enter any animal area at any reasonable time. Additional information on the Animal Welfare Act can be found on the USDA webpage.