Animal Welfare Act is Broadened to Cover Rodents, Birds

ByABC News
October 3, 2000, 4:51 PM

Oct. 3 -- Responding to a lawsuit by animal rightsactivists, the Agriculture Department has agreed to expand itsregulation of research animals to include rats, mice and birds.

Research groups say the additional paperwork that USDA wouldrequire will cost biomedical laboratories $80 million to $90million, money now going into scientific studies. The departmentreached the agreement in an out-of-court settlement that has yet tobe approved by a federal judge.

USDAs regulations under the Animal Welfare Act are now limitedto larger animals, such as chimpanzees, cats and guinea pigs.

Hailed as Animals Rights Victory

This is a significant victory for animals, said Tina Nelson,executive director of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, ananimal rights group. The more than 90 percent of animals used inlaboratories who currently have no legal protection could now becovered by federal law.

USDA spokesman Andy Solomon said the proposed settlement wasprudent and responsible. Once the settlement is approved, thedepartment will propose rules for regulating rodents and birds, andboth animal rights activists and researchers will have a chance tocomment on them, he said.

Scientists who oppose the move by the department say that mice,rats and birds already are sufficiently protected because of muchof the research is done under grants from government healthagencies that have animal-care standards.

From our point of view we dont see the value of duplicateregulations that are very expensive, that are not going to improveanimal welfare, especially when this agency doesnt have theresources to do what they are properly doing now, said BarbaraRich, executive vice president for the National Association forBiomedical Research.

More Documentation Required

The department is likely to require labs to report the number ofanimals they are using and categorize the type of pain and distressthat they are under, Rich said today. Research institutions alsocould be required to consider alternatives to animals for research,such as computer simulations.