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Animal Welfare Act History Digital Collection

The Animal Welfare Act History Digital Collection (AWAHDC) is a full-text, searchable collection that is tightly focused on the history of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

You may view an interactive timeline of Animal Welfare Act History which describes key amendments to the law.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) 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. The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) is a Federally mandated program at the National Agricultural Library which provides information on animal care and use topics, including the AWA and its regulations. AWIC supports the Animal Welfare Act History Digital Collection (AWAHDC).

What is in the AWAHDC?

The AWAHDC contains U.S. Government publications that fall into three categories:

  1. Legislative History of the AWA (including public laws, hearings, Congressional reports, and excerpts from the Congressional Record)
  2. Regulatory History of the AWA (Federal Register documents)
  3. USDA publications (coming soon)

What is NOT in the AWAHDC?

  • Documents published before 1960
  • Documents regarding animals not covered by the Animal Welfare Act (e.g., livestock, wildlife, or animals outside of the United States)
  • Documents about animals but not about the Animal Welfare Act

How to Use the Collection

In order to use the AWAHDC effectively, it is important to know some basic facts about the legislative and regulatory processes and the documents that are produced in the course of these activities. The following information diagrams are meant to help users identify the importance of each item in the collection and how it fits into these processes. The terms used in the Document Type field of each record in the AWAHDC are located in the boxes on the left. The text corresponding to each box describes these document types in context.

The Legislative Process

The legislative process encompasses the procedures by which the elected officials in the Congress introduce, debate, revise, and pass laws within that body’s two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives (the House). Text description of legislative process.

The Regulatory Process

By themselves, public laws do not include all the information needed to explain how an individual, an organization, or a state or other local government might follow the law. Instead, Congress gives government agencies, such as the USDA, the authority to create regulations, which specify what is and is not legal. Very broadly, the process of creating a regulation is as follows. Text description of regulatory process.

Regulatory Process Infographic:

More detailed information on these processes can be found on the following websites: