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Animal Welfare Act Timeline

Pepper Goes Missing

June 22, 1965

Sports Illustrated* reports the story of Pepper, the Lakavage family's Dalmatian that was stolen from their farm in Pennsylvania in June 1965 and sold to a research facility in New York City. Pepper's theft and eventual death prompts Rep. Joseph Resnick (D-NY) to introduce a Laboratory Animal Welfare bill in Congress, an early milestone in the history of the Animal Welfare Act.


*Phinizy, C(1965, November 29). The Lost Pets That Stray to the Labs. Sports Illustrated. Accessed 3 April 2024.

Dalmatian Ch. Rugby Britannia, Bred by Mrs. Hebe Bedwell from "The complete book of the dog" (1922). Courtesy of University of British Columbia Library, image by Tom Reveley. 


Passing of the (Laboratory) Animal Welfare Act (Public Law 89-544)

August 24, 1966

Rep. Resnick's efforts lead to the passage of the (Laboratory) Animal Welfare Actof which the stated intention is "…to protect the owners of dogs and cats from theft of such pets, to prevent the sale or use of dogs and cats which have been stolen, and to insure that certain animals intended for use in research facilities are provided humane care and treatment…". The new law establishes licensing for dog and cat dealers and authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to regulate the transport, sale, and handling of animals pre-research or “for other purposes”. The Act covers six species: dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. 

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act into law on August 24, 1966. Courtesy of the LBJ Presidential Library, image by Mike Geissinger. Background image: First page of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act. Courtesy of the USDA, National Agricultural Library. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Animal Welfare Act Expands

December 24, 1970

This amended law expands the Animal Welfare Act's protections to cover all warm-blooded animals used for research, testing, experimentation, or exhibition, except horses and farm animals not used for research. Additionally, the Act now regulates more research facilities to protect animals throughout the entire research process and exhibitors, such as carnivals, circuses, and zoos.

Tigger, a tiger cub drinks from a bottle at Lincoln Park Zoo's nursery. Courtesy of University of Illinois Library. 

Increasing Protection for Animals in Transit

April 22, 1976

The 1976 amendments expand the definition of "carrier" to include “any airline, railroad, motor carrier, shipping line, or other enterprise” transporting animals for hire and establish shipping standards for transported animals. The law now also covers animal fighting ventures by outlawing interstate and foreign transport of animals in these ventures.

Beagle sleeping in crate. Courtesy of Creative Commons, image by Alan Levine. Background image: Passenger airplane flying in the blue sky. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by peshkov. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Improved Standards for Laboratory Animals

December 23, 1985

The 1985 amendment introduces new requirements for enriching the lives of nonhuman primates, providing exercise for dogs, considering alternatives to painful or distressful procedures, establishing Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs), and creating an information service at the National Agricultural Library (now the Animal Welfare Information Center, AWIC).

A young nonhuman primate sits in a tree. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Roman Sigaev. Background image: Macaque monkeys in research for animal testing. Courtesy of Flickr, image by Understanding Animal Research. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Pet Protection Act

November 28, 1990

This new amendment to the Animal Welfare Act adds a requirement that all dogs and cats held at animal shelters must be kept there for at least 5 days before being sold to a research facility.

Foreground & background image: Postcards collection of Australian and overseas scenes (1925). Courtesy of Powerhouse Museum Collection. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Redefining "Animal"

May 23, 2002

The 2002 amendment limits the definition of "animal" in the Animal Welfare Act to exclude “birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research.”

Two mice housed in their cage for research. Courtesy of Johns Hopkins University, image by Caroline Krall. Background image: Experimental laboratory mice are housed in individually ventilated cages. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Artem. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act

May 3, 2007

The 2007 amendments prohibit the attachment of knives, gaffes, or any other sharp instruments to bird’s legs during animal fighting. Criminal penalties for fighting ventures are also increased.

A rooster kept for cockfighting sport. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Cheattha. Background image: Cockfighting in Thailand. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Evdoha. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Further Protections for Dogs

June 18, 2008

The 2008 amendments stipulate that dogs imported into the United States must be at least six months of age, in good health, and have all necessary vaccinations. They also strengthen dog fighting prohibitions and increase fines for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

A veterinarian inspecting dogs in kennels. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Robert Daly/KOTO. Background image: A crated dog traveling by airplane. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Chalabala. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability. 

Modifying the Definition of "Exhibitor"

January 10, 2013

In response to concerns of small-scale exhibitors, Congress amends the Animal Welfare Act to exclude owners of common, domesticated household pets who derive less than a substantial portion of their income for exhibiting an animal that exclusively resides at their residence from licensing requirements.

Owners exhibiting rabbits at a show. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by Chris Brignell. 

Animal Fighting Venture Prohibition

January 14, 2019

The 2019 amendments to the Animal Welfare Act prohibit animal fighting in U.S. territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands, where animal fighting was previously permitted by local laws. 

Foreground & background image: Two roosters fighting. Courtesy of Adobe Stock, image by somrerk. Semi-opaque layer added over image for readability.