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The potential benefits of animal research are accepted by most. However, painstaking care must be applied to the approach and design of the research to ensure the best possible chance of achieving the research objectives and to minimize both physical and psychological distress to the animals. Consideration should be given not only to transport and housing conditions, but also to practices used in the laboratory. Adequate reasons must also be given as to why the research is necessary.

Public concern over the use and care of laboratory animals in biomedical programs contributed to the passage of the Animal Welfare Act in 1966 and its subsequent amendments. The Animal Welfare Act stated, inter alia, that research facilities should meet certain standards for the care and treatment of laboratory animals. The standards include minimum specifications for food and water, cages and enclosures, sanitation, temperature range, separation of species, veterinary care and euthanasia. The Act also states that reports should be filed on the number of animals used in painful experiments, with or without drugs to alleviate pain.

However, the use of laboratory animals is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and, therefore, scientists, veterinarians and animal care technicians have obligations to the animals to treat them humanely and to use them thoughtfully (i.e., sparingly, only as an absolute necessity when there are no other alternatives available, and even then, only when their use reasonably promises to contribute to the ultimate good of mankind or of other animals).

It is increasingly being recognized by the scientific community that proper care and treatment of laboratory animals is essential for good research. Modern research is complex and exacting and attention to detail is necessary if the results are to be worthwhile. Fox (1979) has observed that "Scientists realize that no valid research can be conducted on sick or stressed animals (unless such variables are deliberately introduced and controlled) and that the animal's welfare is vital for good research. Bad animal facilities mean bad research or at least questionable conclusions which might be invalidated by (or contradict) similar studies conducted upon physically and psychologically normal animals. " This same view has been expressed by Festing (1977) of the Laboratory Animals Center in the United Kingdom.

As a result of the growing and expressed concern of the public and the scientific community, the Institute for the Study of Animal Problems conducted a survey with the assistance of Technassociates, Inc. to establish, as far as possible, the extent to which relevant issues concerning animal use and care are being addressed in grant applications.