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Count Mice, Rats and Birds under the Animal Welfare Act

Improving the Animal Welfare Act at 50

Name: Improving the Animal Welfare Act at 50

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was adopted in 1966 in order to provide minimal standards of care and accountability for animals used in the laboratory. Now in its 50th year, the AWA has a long way to go to fulfill its mission. While in 1970 the AWA was amended, and its scope was expanded to include all “warm-blooded animals,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) subsequently adopted new regulations that specifically excluded mice, rats and birds. These animals have become the most used animals in research, with their annual use estimated in the millions.

In 2002, successful challenges to the USDA’s regulatory exclusion resulted in another amendment to the AWA, this one specifically excluding mice, rats, and birds bred in the laboratory from accountability under the Act. This means that these animals do not receive the same minimal welfare protections guaranteed to other animals used in research under the provisions of the AWA, and that the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) does not track the use of these animals in their annual report on the use of animals in research.

There is substantial evidence to conclude that more than 90% of all animals used in research are mice, rats and birds. How can the U.S. government claim to provide protection for animals used in research when a vast majority of these animals are not even accounted for under the law? Mice, rats and birds are not ensured minimal standards of care; they are not on the list for APHIS inspections; and they are not tallied on annual APHIS reports on the number of animals that suffer pain from experimentation.

While mice, rats and birds may be held to standards under voluntary guidelines, there is no replacement for a mandate to account for every animal used for every experiment, no matter how they are being used.  

 

Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representative, and urge them to introduce an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act to restore its protections to mice, rats and birds used for research.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.

 

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  • Your Senators
  • Your Representative

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Message

Amend the Animal Welfare Act to include accountability for animals used most often

Dear [Decision Maker],

The Animal Welfare Act is now 50 years old. It was originally intended to provide oversight for all warm blooded animals used in research, yet now fails to provide protection and oversight for more than 90 percent of all animals used--namely mice, rats and birds.

Because of their omission from the Act, mice, rats and birds are NOT ensured minimal standards of care; they are NOT on the list for APHIS inspections; and they are NOT tallied on annual APHIS reports on the number of animals that suffer pain from experimentation. While mice, rats and birds may be held to standards under voluntary guidelines, there is no replacement for a mandate to account for every animal used for every experiment, no matter how they are being used.

It is impossible to assess the progress of the use of animals in biomedical and drug research if the animals are not even counted. It is also difficult to obtain a true assessment of the cost of research on animals, and its drain on the economy when 90% of the animals are not included in any accounting.

As the AWA reaches its half-century milestone, please consider making a much-needed change to this important federal law. It is essential to include mice, rats and birds in the Animal Welfare Act for purposes of scientific integrity, animal welfare and economic accountability in determining future funding for animal-based research.

Thank you for your consideration of this issue,

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]