Concern for the welfare of animals used in research and teaching has increased over the last 50 yr. Animal welfare legislation has resulted in guidelines for the use of animals in research, but the guidelines can be problematic because they focus on animals used in laboratory and agriculture research. Raptor biologists can be constrained by guidelines, restrictions, and oversight that were not intended for field research methods or wild animals in the wild or captivity. Field researchers can be further hampered by not understanding animal welfare legislation, who is subject to oversight, or that oversight is often provided by a committee consisting primarily of scientists who work with laboratory animals. Raptor researchers in particular may experience difficulty obtaining approval due to use of various species-specific trapping and handling methods. We provide a brief review of animal welfare legislation and describe the basic components and responsibilities of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in the United States. We identify topics in raptor research that are especially problematic to obtaining IACUC approval, and we provide insight on how to address these issues. Finally, we suggest that all raptor researchers, regardless of legal requirements, abide by the spirit of the animal welfare principles. Failure to do so may bring about further regulatory and permitting restrictions.
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