Bioethics Blogs

#TBT – An August to Remember: Celebrating the Animal Welfare Act

By Angela Craig, DVM, lab animal veterinarian and institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) member at the University of Minnesota

If you were to reflect on important events that occurred in 1966, a legal decision handed down that year had such impact as to influence the conduct of our society every day thereafter. History buffs may think I’m referring to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona which protected the rights of the accused, and introduced the Miranda warning. While this was undeniably monumental and provided necessary protections within the criminal justice system, it was not the only important safeguard measure enacted that year. For animals, the critically significant Public Law 89-544 was signed into existence on August 24, 1966. It is more familiar to us as the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

This original AWA responded to societal concerns about the treatment of animals, specifically defining how dogs, cats, and certain other animals would be procured, transported, and used for research, among other things. To this day, the AWA is the only federal law describing the requirements for how animals are to be treated in the United States of America; its enforcement falls to the United States Department of Agriculture. Given its critical importance in providing direction and protection for animals, it is no surprise that the AWA has changed over time to remain current with societal standards and to address new concerns as they arise.

The AWA has been amended seven times since 1966, with each change providing greater clarity of expectations and expansion of coverage.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.