The Animal Care
Program and the
Authority Under the
Animal Welfare Act:
Basic Questions and
Q. What is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)?
A. The AWA is a Federal law that Congress passed
in 1966 and amended in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1990,
and 2002 to protect warmblooded animals used
in research, bred for commercial sale, exhibited to
the public, or commercially transported. The law
requires minimum standards of animal care to be
established and enforced.
Q. Who enforces the AWA?
A. The Secretary of Agriculture is charged with
enforcing and administering the AWA. This includes
developing and enforcing regulations, issuing
licenses, conducting inspections and investigations,
and overseeing administrative law cases, including
assessing fines and suspending or revoking licenses.
The Secretary has delegated the authority to
develop and enforce regulations, license and register
facilities, and conduct inspections and investigations
to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS). The Animal Care (AC) program manages
AWA activities and receives support from other
APHIS program areas to conduct investigations and
Q. Where do the AWA regulations come from?
How does the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) interpret the AWA?
A. The AWA gives USDA authority to set and
enforce standards and ensure the care and humane
treatment of covered animals. The regulations
establish the specifics of how USDA enforces the
law by defining terms, setting licensing and registration
requirements, and setting standards of care.
When a regulation is created or changed, USDA
will notify the public that it is considering new or
changed rules, request public comments, and publish
proposed and final rules. These notices are
published in the Federal Register. Links to the regula-
tions can be found on the AC publications Web
Recently published rules and notices can be f