The complex set of U.S. laws and subsequent amendments promoting the welfare of laboratory animals is intended to promote public confidence in U.S. research facilities. The Animal Welfare Act was first passed in 1966 and has been extensively amended in subsequent years. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal agency charged with enforcing the AWA and promulgating regulations that oversee laboratory animal welfare. More specifically, the Animal Care unit of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service carries out the duties of enforcement for the agency.
In addition, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also play a significant role in animal welfare through their Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), which monitors compliance with the Public Health Service Policy for the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. To obtain PHS funding researchers must comply with the more extensive requirements of the PHS Policy. What Investigators Need to Know About the Use of Animals provides a succinct resource for investigators to quickly grasp the expectations and requirements when using animals in research supported by the PHS.
While the various regulatory, funding and accrediting agencies have established regulations and requirements designed to assure the welfare of animals used in biomedical research, teaching and testing, the day-to-day assurance comes from the oversight of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and the program of veterinary care that must be in place at each research institution.