Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966. It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Other laws, policies, and guidelines may include additional species coverage or specifications for animal care and use, but all refer to the Animal Welfare Act as the minimum acceptable standard.

The Act is enforced by USDA, APHIS, Animal Care.

Cover of the Animal Welfare Act and Regulations blue book

Animal Welfare Act and Regulations "Blue Book" (September 2013)
USDA Animal Care has posted the most up-to-date version of the Animal Welfare Act and regulations.


Animal Welfare Act and Regulations

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that minimum standards of care and treatment be provided for certain animals bred for commercial sale, used in research, transported commercially, or exhibited to the public.

Current Law and Regulations:

The current law revises the original law passed in 1966 by incorporating the amendments passed in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1990, 2002, 2007, and 2008.

Text of Original Law:


The Animal Welfare Act: Background and Selected Legislation (PDF | 139 KB)

Congressional Research Service.

Provides an overview of the Animal Welfare Act including recent amendments and introduced bills.

Final Rules: Animal Welfare

A selected list of final rules published in the Federal Register regarding changes to the Animal Welfare regulations.

NOTE: A listing of Animal Welfare proposed and final rules from 2000-present are available:

Legislative History of the Animal Welfare Act

USDA. NAL. Animal Welfare Information Center.

An annotated bibliography of Federal documents related to the US Animal Welfare Act. Links to full-text documents are provided when available.

Animal Welfare Act Quick Reference Guides

USDA. NAL. Animal Welfare Information Center.

Animal Care Policy Manual (PDF | 142 KB)

USDA. APHIS. Animal Care.

The manual gives policies issued by APHIS/Animal Care that clarify the Animal Welfare Act regulations. Originally issued in April 1997, new policies may be added at any time and included in the manual.

Animal Care Consolidated Inspection Guide

USDA. APHIS. Animal Care.

Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act (PDF | 125 KB)

USDA. APHIS. Animal Care.

This pamphlet provides guidelines for dealers, exhibitors, transporters, and researchers. It lists most regulated and exempt businesses under the Animal Welfare Act.