Federal, state, and private regulations and policies have been created to protect animals, but what does this translate to at the end user level? Is the scientist aware of what animals are being protected from? Does the typical committee review process simply become a bureaucratic obstacle course to be navigated by the investigator, or is there an individualized process that educates the researcher and secures compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of laws that protect animal research subjects? If we say that pain and distress should be minimized, who can recognize those conditions in animals? What new laws are proposed to protect animals, and will they improve the lot of animals or simply yield more annoying paperwork for investigators and compliance officers? How do we really make certain we make progress in implementing the principles of reduction, refinement, and replacement?
It is important to examine laws, policies, and programs to see if they have some of the intended impact, not just an added level of bureaucracy. By looking at resources such as educational conference proceedings, scientific publications and institutional policies, we can make inferences about whether efforts to protect animals are effective. And more broadly, do policies and practices involving animal research subjects meet public expectations for treatment of animals in research?
A list of student projects in this research area can be found on the Impact of Regulations, Policies and Practices on Animal Welfare in Laboratories Student Projects page.