While the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires research facilities to minimize pain and distress in research animals, the Act fails to provide a definition of distress.  The USDA recognized this problem in 2000 and published in the July 10, 2000 Federal Register that the definition of distress in the AWA would promote the humane treatment of live animals used in research, testing and teaching.  The definition of distress in the AWA is needed to provide increased protections to animals, more adequately notify researchers of their responsibilities to research animals, and send a message to the public that animals must be protected from distressing conditions as well as from pain.  While the difference between distress and pain may appear subtle, many conditions, such as frustration, loneliness, depression and anxiety brought about by confinement do not meet the definition of pain, but nonetheless subject the animal to cruelty. 

It took the USDA thirty-one years to define pain.  Do not let the USDA make the same mistake of waiting to define distress.  This is a necessary addition to the AWA that cannot be put off any longer. 

Please contact the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and urge him to proceed immediately with defining distress in the AWA.

Secretary Mike Johanns
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250

For information about the distress of animals in laboratories,

To view an example letter,