In one recent experiment, mongrel dogs were anesthetized after which thirty-five percent of their body was burned to the third degree by the application of a two hundred degree centigrade hot plate to their skin.' In 1983, researchers at the New Jersey Medical School placed electrodes in the hippocampus portion of the brains of five female cats. The brain was stimulated with electrical current to determine whether or not there was an increase in the tendency of the cat to bite at an anesthetized rat.' Researchers at Georgia State University divided a group of ten infant chimpanzees into pairs and triads. Two weeks later the pairs were split and one from each of the triads was isolated. The study was designed to measure the degree of "protest" behavior and the reunion responses. In the
researcher's own words, "the results of this study indicated that chimpanzees react in predictable ways to separation from cage mates.., the data on separation of chimpanzees are intermediate between those of humans and monkeys." The above examples of animal use are neither unique nor isolated. Are they examples of the incremental steps necessary for the advancement of science or are they unjustified infliction of pain and suffering best characterized as torture? The application of a hot plate or the use of electricity on a living animal by a person would, in a different circumstance, most likely violate state cruelty laws. Presently, within our society, there is a wide range of perspectives on this issue. Some individuals believe any use of animals in experiments is ethically unacceptable regardless of the human motivation. Others would leave such decisions entirely in the hands of the scientist, behind the laboratory door. Still others would argue that while the use of animals may be necessary for science, there is presently too much wastefulness, too much repetition, and that it is unacceptable to inflict pain and suffering on animals.
To pursue these ethical issues requires the opening of the historically closed laboratory door to public and governmental observation. Most reflective people are willing to agree that animals should not suffer pain needlessly. The key issue has always been who should decide when pain is necessary, and in accordance with what standards is the decision to be made. Today, as in the past, individual scientists make the decision on a case by case basis with some oversight by a peer review process. The government has bowed to the demands of research scientists who wish to be free in their choice of research technique. Would the imposition of government regulation be constitutional? Would government regulation stifle scientific research, killing the golden goose? This article proposes new legislation which would reduce the pain and suffering of animals to a minimum while allowing maximum flexibility for the researcher. The primary legal mechanism for accomplishing this goal is a federal permit system. Under this system, rather than trying to control
all animal research, permits will be required only for specifically listed techniques which produce pain and suffering in animals and any use of primates. Before describing the specific provisions of my Laboratory Animal Act (LAA), some background may be useful.
First, a brief examination of present laws will show how little regulation exists to govern the use of animals for scientific purposes. Second, a legal frame of reference for the regulation of scientific experimentation will be developed. Third, an ethical perspective for animals will be considered.