Breaking the Law II, Animal Care in U.S. Labs: Government Sanctioned Negligence
While the use of animals in laboratories has been a controversial subject for decades, virtually everyone concerned with this subject agrees that animal experimentation should be regulated. This regulation began in 1966 with the advent of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This law regulates many situations in which animals are used including exhibition, sale, transportation, and experimentation. The act has been amended several times in the interim to allow for things like exercise for dogs and environmental enhancement for primates. The AWA is enforced by the Animal Care division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS/AC).
The existence of this law is not in question. However, the enforcement of this law is open to discussion. A recent audit of USDA/APHIS/AC by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found:
"Due to a lack of clear National guidance, AC’s Eastern Region is not aggressively pursuing enforcement actions against violators of the AWA.2 We found that regional management significantly reduced its referrals of suspected violators to IES from an average of 209 cases in fiscal years (FYs) 2002-2003 to 82 cases in FY 2004. During this same period, regional management declined to take action against 126 of 475 violators that had been referred to IES.3 In contrast, the Western Region declined action against 18 of 439 violators."
The full summary of the OIG audit is in Appendix A of this report.
This finding is cause for concern because many large and well-known laboratories are located in the Eastern Region of the U.S. This report was dated September of 2005, but it dealt with information from the 2002 – 2004 time period. The elapsed time since this report should have allowed USDA/APHIS/AC to implement changes which could improve AWA enforcement.
This report examines enforcement of the AWA since the OIG Audit of 2005. Inspection reports for 163 registered research facilities were examined which covered the nine month period from January 1, 2005 to October 3, 2005. These documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
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