The use of laboratory animals is one of the most regulated uses of animals in the United States, and other countries as well. In the U.S., the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy) regulate the use of laboratory animals. Some states and U.S. cities also have animal welfare laws that govern the use of laboratory animals.
The AWA has been in effect since 1966, with several amendments to provide additional coverage for animal care and use. The AWA is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The AWA covers many of the common laboratory species. All institutions using AWA-covered animals must register with the USDA, and can be inspected at any time, without prior notification. The University renewed its registration with the USDA in 2020.
The PHS Policy has been law since 1985, and is enforced by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The PHS Policy covers use of cold- and warm- blooded vertebrates used in NIH-funded research and the terms of the UMass Assurance with OLAW at NIH expands this oversight to all use of vertebrate animals in research and teaching at the University. The PHS Policy requires compliance with the guidelines and standards in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide). The PHS Policy covers training and research funded by NIH but most institutions apply its requirements and standards for all animal use at the institution. The institution must apply for, and if approved, maintain an Animal Welfare Assurance with OLAW. Documentation is mostly by correspondence on a regular basis, but site visits by OLAW are conducted periodically. The University renewed its NIH Animal Welfare Assurance in 2018.
Both laws include specifics about the housing, daily husbandry, veterinary care, emergency coverage, training of all personnel involved with the animals, and maintenance of physical facilities. Both require the active participation of the attending laboratory animal veterinarian and an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
Animal Use policy at UMass Amherst applies standards required by these federal regulations equally to all vertebrate animal used for research and teaching.