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The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)

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The Animal Welfare Act (AWA)

The regulations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) require that investigators provide Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) with documentation demonstrating that alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary pain or distress to the animals have been considered and that activities do not unnecessarily duplicate previous experiments.  A thorough literature search regarding alternatives using relevant sources helps to meet this Federal mandate.

Investigators must provide a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives including refinements, reductions, and replacements.

A multiple database search is considered the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures.

The narrative must, at a minimum include:

1.  The names of the databases searched.

2.  The date(s) the search was performed.

3.  The period covered by the search.

4.  The key words and the search strategy used.

[From the Animal Care Resource Guide, Policy #12.  United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.]

The USDA's Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) lists the following "Red Flags" to an INADEQUATE database search:

  • Search completed at the last minute.
  • Only 1 database searched.
  • Terms only for painful aspects.
  • The term "alternative" used alone.
  • Keywords listed not relevant to protocol.
  • Keywords and concepts linked in an incorrect manner (e.g. wrong Boolean operators).
  • Search doesn't cover adequate time period.