Animal Welfare




Laws governing the treatment of animals in the United States began to emerge, mostly at the state level, in the mid to late 1800’s. New York’s law, passed in 1867 and spearheaded by the state organization of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), became a template followed by other states into the next century. Even today, the majority of animal cruelty laws are enacted and offenses prosecuted on the state level. The laws, while similar, have many significant differences which necessitate a close reading of the state statute. Read the full overview.

Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 48
Poultry and Poultry Production Products Inspection, 21 U.S.C. §§ 451-473
Animal Health and Disease Research, 7 U.S.C. §§ 3191-3202
Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2131-2160
Fishery Conservation and Management, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1891
Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-44
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 2901-2912
Horse Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1821-1831
Humane Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1907
Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 41-49
Lacey Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378
Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1361-1423h
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1431-1445
Protection of Migratory Game and Insectivorous Birds Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 701-719c
Twenty-Eight Hour Law, 49 U.S.C. § 80502
Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331-1340
Compilation of States’ Farm Animal Confinement Statutes
Compilation of States’ Animal Cruelty Statutes


Organic Program: Livestock Health Care Practice Standard, 7 C.F.R. §§ 205.238
Organic Program: Livestock Living Conditions, 7 C.F.R. §§ 205.239
Poultry Products Inspection Regulations9 C.F.R. §§ 381.1-381.524
Animal Welfare Act Regulations, 9 C.F.R. §§ 1-4.11
Horse Protection Act Regulations, 9 C.F.R. §§ 11.1-12.10
Twenty-Eight Hour Law Regulations, 9 C.F. R. §§ 89.1-89.5
Humane Slaughter Act Regulations, 9 C.F.R. §§ 313.1-313.90
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, 40 C.F.R. §§ 412.1-412.47
Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act Regulations, 43 C.F.R. §§ 4700.0-1-4770.5
Importation, Exportation, and Transportation of Wildlife Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 14.1-14.255
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 17.1-17.199
Marine Mammals Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 18.1-18.141
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act Regulations, 50 C.F.R. §§ 83.1-83.21

Case Law

Case Law Index for Animal Welfare

Center Research Publications

Agriculture and the ADA: Service Animals (Brown & E. Rumley)
The Veterinary Feed Directive Rules for Veterinarians: A Practical Guide for the Practicing Veterinarian (Roasa)
Legal Issues in Animal Agriculture: Regulating Living Space (E. Rumley)
Legal Issues in Animal Agriculture: Medication, Identification and Accommodations (E. Rumley)
States’ Farm Animal Confinement Statutes
States’ Animal Cruelty Statutes (Springsteen)
Animal Cruelty Statutes – A State-By-State Analysis (Springsteen)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports—published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017
Subjects—published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2023:

Animal Agriculture
Environmental Issues

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Animal Welfare:

Animals – Animal Rights
International Trade
Livestock and Packers & Stockyards
Veterinary Law

Reference Resources

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Animal Welfare Information Center
Legislative History of the Animal Welfare Act
Animal Welfare Audits and Certification Programs
Pain and Distress in Farm Animals: Recognition and Assessment

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

Animal Welfare
Animal Welfare: Publications, Forms and Guidance Documents
The Animal Welfare Act: An Overview
Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act: Research Facility Annual Reports
Animal Welfare Act Inspections


Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act: Guidelines for Dealers, Exhibitors, Transporters, and Researchers
Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act: Research Facility Annual Reports
Animal Welfare Act: Compliance Inspections
Horse Protection

Other Federal Resources

Animal Welfare Inspection Guide (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA)
Antibiotic Resistance: Federal Agencies Need to Better Focus Efforts to Address Risk to Humans from Antibiotic Use in Animals (GAO-04-490)
Humane Methods of Slaughter Act: Actions Are Needed to Strengthen Enforcement (GAO-10-203)
Livestock Issues Research Unit
Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (Dept. of Health and Human Services)
Livestock Behavior Research Unit (Agricultural Research Service)
Animal Policy and Regulatory Issues (ERS)
Animal Welfare Issues Compendium: A Collection of 14 Discussion Papers (NAL)
Captive Wildlife Safety Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv.)
Humane Slaughter: Key Facts (Food Safety and Inspection Service, FSIS)
Veterinarian Workforce: Actions Are Needed to Ensure Sufficient Capacity for Protecting Public and Animal Health (GAO-09-178)

International Resources

Animal Production and Health (FAO/IAEA Programme)
Animal Production and Health Division (FAO)
Farm Animal Welfare Committee (UK) (UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs)
World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)


Legislative Analysis of H.R. 4417: The “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act” (“Eats Act”) (Harvard Law School, Animal Law & Policy Program, July 2023)
Farmers’ Guide to Disaster Assistance, “Volume 3: Livestock Indemnity Program” (FLAG, 2019)
Legal Protections for Animals on Farms (AWI, May 2022)
Barn Fire: A Deadly Threat to Farm Animals (AWI, 2022)
Impact of Free-range Poultry Production Systems of Animal Health, Human Health, Productivity, Environment, Food Safety, and Animal Welfare Issues (CAST, July 2018)
Legislative Analysis of H.R. 4879: The “Protect Interstate Commerce Act of 2018” (“King Amendment”) (Harvard Law School, Animal Law & Policy Program, April 2018)
Gaps in US Animal Welfare Law for Laboratory Animals: Perspectives from an Animal Law Attorney (ILAR Journal, Volume 57, Issue 3, May 2016)
How the Animal Welfare Act Harms Animals (Hastings Law Journal, Volume 69, April 2018)
The Animal Welfare Act at Fifty: Problems and Possibilities in Animal Testing Regulation (McGeorge School of Law Scholarly Articles 2016)
California Passes Animal Welfare Law (Dairy Herd Management, November 2018)
State Poultry Processing Regulations (Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, 2018)
Scientific Assessment of the Welfare of Dry Sows Kept in Individual Accommodations  (Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, 2009)
Overview of U.S. Animal Welfare Act (Animal Legal and Historical Center)

Additional Resources

Animal Care Program: Proposition 12, Farm Animal Confinement (CDFA)
Enforcement of State Farm Animal Welfare Laws (AWI)
Animal Law & Policy Program (Harvard Law School)
National Anti-Vivisection Society
American Veterinary Medical Association
Center for Food Animal Wellbeing (Univ. of Arkansas)
Animal Welfare Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)
Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC)
Animal Welfare Policy Statements (AVMA)
Guidelines for Euthanasia (AVMA)
Animal Welfare (NAMI)
National Institute for Animal Agriculture
Animal Welfare (Animal Agriculture Alliance)
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production
International Regulations and Resources (AAALAC)
Animal Legal & Historical Web Center (MI St. U. College of Law)
Animal Law Resource Center
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animal Law Review
Center for Animal Law Studies (Lewis & Clark Law School)
Center for Animals and Public Policy (Tufts Cummings School of Vet Med)
“Certified Humane Raised and Handled” Classification
United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks (Cage & Cage Free) (2010 Edition)
American Meat Institute Animal Handling and Audit Guidelines
The Cattle Industry’s Guidelines for the Care and Handling of Cattle (Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.)
National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist (2017)
National Dairy “FARM” (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Animal Care Handbook (2013)
Farm Animal Welfare Research Library (Humane Society of the United States)
Animal Welfare, Veterinary Medicine Extension (UC Davis)
“Animal Welfare Approved” Standards

Recommended Readings and Publications (not freely available electronically):

Craig, J.V. and J.C. Swanson, Review: Welfare Perspectives on Hens Kept for Egg Production, 73 (7) Poultry Science,  921-38 (1994).
Dantzer, R., Research Perspectives in Farm Animal Welfare: The Concept of Stress, 6 (special suppl. 2) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, 86-92 (1993).
Ewbank, R., Farm Animal Welfare: A Historical Overview, 6 (special suppl.1) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics, 82-86 (1993).
Gonyou, H.W., Animal Welfare: Definitions and Assessment, 6 (special suppl.2) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics,  37-43 (1993).
Kertz, A.F., Animal Care and Use: An Issue Now and in the Future, 74 (1) Journal of Animal Science, 257-261 (1996).
McGlone, J.J., What Is Animal Welfare? 6 (special suppl.2) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics,  26-36 (1993).
Mench, J.A., Assessing Animal Welfare: An Overview, 6 (special suppl.2) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics  68-75 (1993).
Stricklin, W.R. and J.A. Mench, An International Conference on Farm Animal Welfare: Ethical, Scientific and Technological Perspectives, 6 (special suppl.1) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics  1-3, (1993).
Wiepkema, P.R., W.G.P. Schouten & P. Koene, Biological Aspects of Animal Welfare: New Perspectives,6 (special suppl.2) Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics  93-103, (1993).
Joseph Mendelson, III, Should Animals Have Standing? A Review of Standing Under the Animal Welfare Act, 24 Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, 795-820 (1997).