Animals in Labs Article from

The Animal Welfare Act Protects Animals, Right?

From Mikalah Singer, JD, LLM, Center for Contemporary Sciences
May 2023

Additionally, and importantly, even for the few animals covered under the AWA, the law provides minimal limitations on the degree of pain and suffering an animal may endure.

Chimp fingers

Few federal laws are considered household names. One of these is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA was the first United States federal law to regulate animals used in research. The law was initially called the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (1966) and was enacted to combat theft of pets to be sold into research.

The 1966 law covered the sale, transport, care, and handling of dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs and required the identification of dogs and cats. Laboratory facilities and dealers were also required to register.

In 1970, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act was amended and became what we now know as the AWA. This amendment also specified the coverage of all warm-blooded animals used in research.

This may sound good on the surface, but the AWA’s definition of “animal” specifically excludes rats, mice, and birds—the most common species used in labs.


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