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US debates care standards for small laboratory animals

The US Animal Welfare Act for humane care of research animals excludes rats, mice and birds. Efforts to remedy this are in progress.

John Borchardt (jkborchardt@aol.com)

HOUSTON The current US Animal Welfare Act for humane care of research animals specifically excludes rats, mice and birds, which make up more than 95 per cent of all laboratory animals. In response to a 2000 lawsuit filed by the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to extend existing protections for other laboratory animals to mice, rats and birds but implementation of these guidelines continues to be delayed.

The new regulations require that laboratory animals must have adequate space, air, food, water and clean cages and that they should suffer as little pain as necessary. These standards match those already covering rats, mice and birds kept in laboratories of researchers receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health or Public Health Service. However, the federal government estimates that 800 laboratories currently have no oversight for their treatment of the smallest...

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