In addition to the multiple federal laws and regulations that exist to protect laboratory animals, some state governments choose to exercise oversight of animal research facilities in some fashion. The types of state laws NABR tracks are described briefly below. More details regarding state statutes affecting animals used in laboratories are available to NABR member institutions. Please see the ‘Member’s Only’ section of the NABR website.

Animal Cruelty

All states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting animal cruelty. In recent years, many states have significantly updated those statutes, clarified specific acts that constitute animal cruelty as well as increased penalties for violations. Most states now include felony provisions. Exemptions for medical research are often provided. Forty states, in addition to the District of Columbia, specifically provide some form of exemption for research. Of those 40 states: 20 plus the District of Columbia specifically exempt research from the animal cruelty statute; 4 exempt acts that are authorized by law from the animal cruelty statute even though research is not specifically mentioned; 6 specify that research use of an animal is an affirmative defense to prosecution under criminal cruelty laws; and 10 exempt research from the animal cruelty statutes when the research institution is subject to federal requirements such as the Animal Welfare Act or the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.


Currently 16 states restrict the use of animals in some K-12 classroom settings, particularly for dissection purposes. Typical laws require that students be given a choice of alternative means of learning that do not involve using live or dead animals, such as videos and/or computer simulations.

Research Facility Regulation

As of 2007, a total of 11 states require or allow regulation of research facilities, e.g., providing for state licensure and/or allowing state inspections. Of these, five states and the District of Columbia require state licensing or registration in order for a research facility to receive animals impounded by municipal authorities and two states require licensing to use dogs and/or cats in research.

Research Animal Availability

Restricting the ability of research institutions to obtain animals impounded by state or other municipal authorities has long been an objective of animal activists. Thirteen states currently prohibit the release of such animals for research use. Ten states and the District of Columbia permit the release of impounded animals for research only under regulated circumstances and conditions. However, whether or not state level restrictions exist, research institutions receive very few, if any, animals directly from municipal animal control facilities. No animals are known to come from private shelters. Most local animal control operations do not supply animals for research use as a matter of policy.

Research Facility Protection

State legislatures around the country have continued to address the mounting threat of animal or eco-terrorism. Presently, 37 states have laws protecting animal research facilities among others from criminal acts such as arson, economic sabotage and similar acts of intimidation.