Animal rights groups attempt to portray researchers as “mad scientists” who work with no supervision or control. But stringent controls are in place by the government through the Animal Welfare Act and its amendments, and they have been in place for more than 35 years. Research laboratories where animals work with us, must meet strict federal, state and local requirements. Federal regulators routinely inspect laboratories to ensure that animals are adequately housed and cared for. In addition, many laboratories submit to additional voluntary inspection for accreditation through the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International (AAALAC).
We have developed laws and procedures to ensure protection of ALL the animals that work with us.
3Rs: Replacement, Refinement, Reduction
Alternatives must be considered for every research project that involves animals. Can we alter the project to reduce stress? Can we use fewer animals? Can the project be done without animals? This is the concept of the 3 Rs—reducing the number of animals used, refining our techniques to reduce stress, and replacing animal experiments with those that do not require animals. There are alternatives to potentially stressful procedures in animal research that, under the right circumstances, can be used. Cell cultures and computer-generated models and simulations can sometimes give researchers the information they need. Stress can be reduced or controlled by the use of anesthesia and analgesia as well as through training of animal handlers. Finally, the number of animals needed can be reduced by improving the model system so that fewer animals are required to produce accurate results. Before initiating a study, researchers must search the literature to make sure they’re not duplicating a past research project. They must also consider the above alternatives when constructing their study.
Regulations to Ensure Animal Welfare
Animals working in research are covered by several laws and regulations:
- 28-Hour Law (1873)
- Animal Welfare Act (1966)
- Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
- Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care
- State Certification for Animal Research (AAALAC)
- Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
- US Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals
- ILAR Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
- AVMA Panel Report on Euthanasia
- Good Laboratory Practices Act
- Health Research Extension Act
These laws and regulations came to pass to protect research animals from mistreatment, and apply to all animals working with us in research. Facilities are monitored, frequently by surprise inspection. Veterinarians serve as advocates for the animals, and are involved in animal research during every step of research projects. There are committees at institutions conducting research that monitor what the research requirements are for the benifit of our animals. There are even committee members from the community who have no vested interest in the research who also act as advocates for the animals as well as humans.