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Animal Welfare Act and Alternatives to Painful Procedures

The Legislation

The Animal Welfare Act 13(a)(3)(B) requires that

"the principal investigator considers alternatives to any procedure likely to produce pain or distress in an experimental animal.”

Policy 12 of the Animal Care Resource Guide - Written Narrative for Alternatives to Painful Procedures explains:

“Alternatives or alternative methods are generally regarded as those that incorporate some aspect of replacement, reduction, or refinement of animal use in pursuit of the minimization of animal pain and distress consistent with the goals of the research.”

Policy 11 of the Animal Care Resource Guide - Painful Procedures on the role of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) states that

“The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is responsible for ensuring that investigators have appropriately considered alternatives to any procedures that may cause more than slight or momentary pain or distress.”

Title 9, Chapter 1, Section 2.31 (d)(1) of the Code of Federal Regulations says that the IACUC must ensure that the investigator:

(ii) “has provided a written narrative description of the methods and sources, e. g., the Animal Welfare Information Center, used to determine that alternatives were not available” and (iii) “has provided written assurance that the activities do not unnecessarily duplicate previous experiments.”

Further to this, Policy 12 of the Animal Care Resource Guide - Written Narrative for Alternatives to Painful Procedures
outlines that:

“When a database search is the primary means of meeting this requirement, the narrative must, at a minimum, include:
  1. the names of the databases searched;
  2. the date the search was performed;
  3. the period covered by the search; and
  4. the key words and/or the search strategy used.


It also stipulates that

“in some circumstances (as in highly specialized fields of study), conferences, colloquia, subject expert consultants, or other sources may provide relevant and up-to date information regarding alternatives in lieu of, or in addition to, a database search.”

If an alternative is found, the policy explains that

If a database search or other source identifies a bona fide alternative method (one that could be used to accomplish the goals of the animal use proposal), the written narrative should justify why this alternative was not used.”