Evolution of the AWA

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On Aug. 24, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act is signed into law. The Act sets minimum standards for the care and housing for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs in the premises of animal dealers and laboratories, and it requires identification of dogs and cats to prevent theft. Dealers must be licensed, and laboratories must be registered.


On Dec. 24, Congress amends the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, renamed the Animal Welfare Act, extending its protections to all warmblooded animals in laboratories.


Congress passes an amendment (signed into law April 22) to broaden the Animal Welfare Act to, among other things, regulate carriers, intermediate handlers, and animal brokers, so as to require adherence to humane standards; specify that all dogs, including dogs for hunting, security, or breeding purposes, be protected; require a veterinarian’s certificate for animals in interstate transport; and require all federal agencies using laboratory animals to show they fully comply with the law.


On Dec. 23, the omnibus Food Security Act, including the Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals Act, is enacted. ISLAA is an amendment to the AWA intended to minimize the pain and distress of animals in the laboratory. Among other things, it establishes an information service in the National Agricultural Library to provide data on alternatives to animals in research, help prevent unintended duplication of experiments and tests, and supply information to institutions for training scientists and other personnel in humane practices. Each registered research facility must appoint an institutional animal care and use committee, including a veterinarian and an unaffiliated person, to represent the general community interest in the welfare of the animals. The committee must inspect the animal laboratories twice a year and report deficiencies to the institution for correction. Investigators are required to consider alternatives and to consult with a veterinarian before beginning any experiment that could cause pain.


On Nov. 28, the omnibus Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act is adopted into law.  The Pet Theft Act, included in the bill, amends the AWA so as to require pounds to hold dogs and cats for five days before releasing them to dealers. The AWA is further amended to allow the Department of Agriculture to seek injunctions against any licensed facility found dealing in stolen animals or placing the health of any animal in serious danger in violation of the law.


On May 13, the omnibus Farm Security and Rural Investment Act is enacted. It includes language changing the definition of “animal” under the AWA to specifically exclude birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus bred for use in research.


The AWA is amended May 3 to make it a violation to engage in animal fighting and acts that would promote animal fighting. The amendment makes it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison to engage in such activities.


On June 18, the omnibus Food, Conservation, and Energy Act is adopted into law. It includes an amendment to the AWA that increases fines for violations of the law from $2,500 to $10,000 per violation, per animal, per day. Additionally, the law mandates a study of class B dealers by the National Institutes of Health and instructs the USDA to report the study findings to the House and Senate agriculture committees.