The Scientific Basis for Regulation of Animal Care and Use

The care and use of laboratory animals in biomedical research and testing is highly regulated. Regulation, together with effective voluntary programs such as AAALAC accreditation, improves the health and welfare of laboratory animals and reassures the public of their humane care and use. Animal-directed standards have evolved from four primary sources.

  1. The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, first published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1963 and revised since then, provides benchmark recommendations for animal care and use. This guideline document evolved from concepts first proposed during the 1950s by the Animal Care Panel, which eventually became AALAS. Thus, since its inception, AALAS has been instrumental in fostering humane standards for animal experimentation.
  2. The Animal Welfare Act, first enacted in 1966, underwent major revisions in 1985, and is amended periodically.
  3. The Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, derived from the Health Research Extension Act of 1985 and revised since then, provides policies and standards that are complementary to the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
  4. The US Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training, developed in 1983, applies to animal use performed or sponsored by the United States Government.

Regulations based on empirical judgments lacking scientific confirmation can lead to variable interpretation or misinterpretation and detrimental conflict between regulators and scientists. Furthermore, empirically-based regulation can impede biomedical research and make it more costly. Because advancing and promoting information on the optimal conditions for maintaining species-specific laboratory animal health and welfare is integral to the AALAS mission, AALAS encourages the development of mandates that are based on scientific and ethical principles and are conducive to the species-specific health and well-being of laboratory animals.


  • Laws, regulations, policies, guidelines, and standards should be consistent with the universal goal of society and biomedical science to improve and protect health.
  • These mandates should be scientifically, ethically, and fiscally sound, and conducive to species-specific health and well-being.
  • The application of established knowledge about animal biology and medicine should guide the formulation and revision of these mandates.
  • Additional research is needed to improve knowledge about species-specific biology, welfare, well-being, and disease pertinent to regulation.
  • Laws, regulations, policies, guidelines, and standards should not be duplicative, should be implemented uniformly, and should encourage verifiable voluntary alternatives such as AAALAC accreditation.
  • In the absence of scientific data, these mandates should be based on sound professional judgment.