Policies and Standards Related to Animal Care and Use

The use of animals in laboratory settings is subject to various legal responsibilities and policy guidelines.  In the United States, federal animal welfare regulations fall under the remit of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For information about the regulations and guidelines, explore the USDA's Animal Welfare Information Center.  Researchers who are involved in animal research with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are also subject to the regulations and policies of the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW).

Elsewhere, the biomedical research governmental organizations will offer appropriate guidance on the use of animals for research and should be consulted.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

All research facilities are required to establish a local Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee that establishes appropriate policies, reviews protocols, ensures humane care and use of animals, and regularly monitors the facility for compliance with all laws and policies.  The committee must have a veterinarian or scientist trained or experienced in using the species involved, an active research scientist, and a member of the general public. For more details on the composition and roles of the IACUC, the Guide for the Use and Care of Laboratory Animals provides an excellent chapter that covers this topic.

Professional Standards and Organizations

A variety of professional organizations provide education, outreach, support, and professional certifications around the use of animals in research settings.  These organizations can be useful sources of information at all levels, and also offer professional development opportunities for careers involving animal care.

  • The  American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) provides education, training, and research around the use of animals in laboratory settings.  They offer certification and continuing education, as well as various forums and symposiums among other outreach mechanisms.
  • The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) is a non-profit organization that aims to provide expertise and information in the use and care of laboratory animals.  They also have a professional certification mechanism to provide credentials in the arena of animal resource management. 
  • The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) is a division of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. This organization evaluates information on the use of animals in research, and disseminates this information in a variety of ways including books, reports, and other outreach.  They are also the publishers of the ILAR Journal, which supports the animal researcher community.
  • The American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners (ASLAP) offers scientific and technical information exchange for veterinarians practicing in this arena. Helpful publications, newsletters, and career development resources are available from this organization.

Alternatives to Animal Research

For many purposes the use of animals in research is warranted and effective, and provides clear benefits for improving human health.  In some cases, though, alternatives to the use of animals in research may be suitable.  To learn more about these alternatives, you may wish to consult the Altweb resources at The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.