The Animal Welfare Act is a federal law which regulates the treatment of animals. Specifically, it is the only law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. While other federal, state, and local laws can add additional requirements on top of the Animal Welfare Act, the Act is considered to be the minimum acceptable standards for the care of any animal.
The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966 and it is enforced by the USDA, APHIS, and the Animal Careagency. The law was strengthened through amendments passed in 1970, 1976, 1985, and 1990.
The Animal Welfare Act states that everyone who operates research facilities, exhibition establishments, or works with the care or transport of animals must provide these animals with adequate care and treatment. This adequate treatment covers the areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition,
water, and veterinary care. In general, animals must receive adequate nutrition, be kept clean, and be provided some protection from natural elements such as temperature extremes and storms.
It should be noted that the Animal Welfare Act only regulates the care and treatment of
warm blooded animals. Cold blooded animals, such as reptiles and amphibians are not covered. Additionally, farm animals and other animals used for food, fiber, or other agricultural purposes are not covered. It should also be noted that retail pet shops are generally not covered under the Animal Welfare Act. The exception to this is if the shop sells exotic or zoo animals or sells any animals to regulated businesses. Animal shelters are only covered under the Act if they sell dogs or cats to
dealers. Pets owned by private citizens are not regulated.
The Act requires all regulated businesses covered by the Act to keep accurate records of acquisition and disposition as well as a description of the animals that come into their possession. Animal dealers are also required to hold animals that they have acquired for at least five days to in order to verify their
origin and allow private pet owners the opportunity to locate a missing pet.
The Animal Welfare Act is the law which prohibits staged dogfights, bear or raccoon baiting, and other animal fighting ventures. This is probably the portion of the Act which receives the most attention and is the one cited most often in various media reports.
The second most publicized parts of this law are the portions dealing with animals kept in research facilities. The law requires these labs provide veterinary care and basic care. Additionally, research facilities must provide dogs with the opportunity for exercise and they must promote the psychological
well-being of primates. Research facilities are also required to give their animals pain-relieving medication in order to minimize the distress caused their research, but this is only required if the
experiment allows. To minimize the number of “exempt” experiments, the Act bans the unnecessary
duplication of a specific experiment using regulated