USDA Seeks Comments On Animal Welfare Act Research Regulations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering replacing or modifying the system used to classify animal pain and distress for animals used for research, tests, experiments, or teaching. USDA is also considering creating an Animal Welfare Act definition for the word "distress."

"Although the word distress is used throughout the regulations, there is not a written definition included in those regulations," said W. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for animal care with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a part of USDA's marketing and regulatory programs mission area. "We are also interested in comments regarding the replacement or modification of the current system used to classify animal pain and distress experienced by lab animals."

USDA will seek public comment on these issues in order to determine whether the regulations should be changed. There are a number of examples of pain and distress classification systems in use in various countries around the world. The system adopted by the Canadian Council on Animal Care can be viewed on the Internet at Another system, proposed by the Humane Society of the United States, is available for viewing at

USDA is particularly interested in comments addressing the following five questions:

  • Would adding a definition for distress to the regulations help institutions using animals for research, testing, or teaching better recognize, minimize, and report animals distress;
  • If a definition for distress is added to the regulations, what key elements should be included in that definition;
  • What are the benefits and limitations of our pain and distress classification systems;
  • Should our animal pain and distress classification system be modified or replaced? If so, what specific modification or alternate classification systems should we consider; and
  • Should animal pain and distress be prospectively or retrospectively reported?

Notice of this action is published in the July 10 Federal Register. APHIS documents published in the Federal Register, and related information, including the names of organizations and individuals who have commented on APHIS dockets, are available on the Internet at

Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Sept 8. Please send an original and three copies of to Docket No. 00-005-1, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Suite 3CO3, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238.

Comments received may be reviewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays. Persons wishing to review comments are requested to call ahead on (202) 690-2817 to facilitate entry into the comment reading room.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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