Animal Welfare Policy: Implementation in the Context of Wildlife Research—Policy Review and Discussion of Fundamental Issues

Also known as the “wildlife FAQ,” this paper was originally “commissioned” by the Animal Subjects Committee of the Federal Demonstration Partnership. The FDP is an association of federal agencies, academic research institutions with administrative, faculty and technical representation, and research policy organizations that work to streamline the administration of federally sponsored research. FDP members of all sectors cooperate in identifying, testing, and implementing new, more effective ways of managing the more than $15 Billion in federal research grants. The goal of improving the productivity of research without compromising its stewardship has benefits for the entire nation. After several rounds of review by the FDP Animal Subjects Committee leadership, it was decided that the paper should be published in the journal of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Welfare of the National Research Council (of the National Academy of Sciences).

It should serve as a touchstone for researchers, IACUC members, and Institutional Officials as well as for funding and oversight agencies.


The use of vertebrate animals in research and education in the United States is subject to a number of regulations, policies, and guidelines under the immediate oversight of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs), which are charged with ensuring the ethical and appropriate use of the animal subjects. In almost all instances, this regulatory and oversight landscape of animal use has been developed around domesticated animals in biomedical research environments. When the research activities involve wild species, especially in their natural habitat rather than a laboratory, oversight personnel and investigators alike struggle with determining what constitutes ethical and appropriate activities. These difficulties stem from fundamental differences in biology between wild and domesticated animals and from the differences in research objectives and methods in wildlife compared with biomedical research. Here we discuss the various policies, regulations, and guidance documents for animal use in the context of wildlife research. We compare the expectations of the various oversight agencies and how these expectations are met when working with wild vertebrates. We make recommendations for how IACUCs can use available resources to ensure that activities involving wild species are conducted in compliance with existing regulations and policies and in ways that are biologically appropriate for these nondomesticated species.