Laws Relating to Animal Research

More than 85% of medical schools no longer use live animals for research. 90% or more of schools no longer use live animals in teaching courses such as physiology. Top medical schools such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania have not used live animals in this way for years.

In the United States it is not illegal to experiment on animals. Facilities that experiment on animals for research, testing or education are generally regulated by the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. §2131 et seq. which is enforced by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also involved in regulating the care and use of laboratory animals under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as implemented by the Good Laboratory Practice Regulations (21 CFR Part 58).

And, the National Institutes of Health, The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), Office of Extramural Research, are responsible for the implementation and general administration of the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy). The PHS Policy implements the Health Research Extension Act of 1985.

Pursuant to a Memo of Understanding these agencies theoretically share concerns, coordinate inspections or evaluations of research facilities and cooperate on the development and interpretation of policies and standards.

For all of this regulation, there is little oversight and few regulations for facilities that use animals in research, testing or education. Basically, the Animal Welfare Act relies on self-regulation through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (“IACUC”) system. 7 USCS § 2143(b); 9 CFR 2.31

Under this system each facility must organize an IACUC which is then responsible for licensing, registration, approval of protocols for the use of animals in research, testing or education, and compliance with applicable regulations. The IACUC is required to issue an annual report about the use of animals in research, testing or education at the facility. 9 CFR 2.31-2.38.

A 2005 audit report by the USDA inspector general found that IACUCs are not consistent in regulating the facility and do not consistently apply the law, especially in cases involving animal pain and distress.

75% of Americans oppose animal research that causes severe pain and distress.

There are only minimal standards for the care and treatment of animals caught in this cruel and arcane practice of experimenting on live animals. Basically, the facility is required to consider alternatives to any procedure likely to produce pain to or distress in an experimental animals. Also, facilities must try to reduce an animal’s pain and distress and withhold tranquilizers, anesthesia or euthanasia when scientifically necessary for only the necessary period of time. Animals are not to be use in more than one major operative experiment except in cases of scientific necessity or other special circumstances. 7 USC §2143. See further 9 CFR §§2.32, 2.38.

The truth is there are thousands of dogs, cats and other animals trapped in archaic animal research facilities. The numbers are staggering. Go here for some of the annual reports of research facilities.

Find inspection reports here.