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On February 1, 2024, the BMEL published a draft bill entitled "A draft bill to amend the Animal Welfare Law and the Animal Products Trade Prohibition Law (in German)" to strengthen animal welfare in terms of housing and use of animals in Germany. The Animal Welfare Law refers to the welfare of vertebrate animals used by humans, including those used in basic biomedical research. In this context, animal welfare is of paramount importance in line with the 3R principles. With regard to the improvement and safeguarding of animal welfare, the amendment to the Animal Welfare Law was welcomed by the research community, but the addition of further ambiguous legal formulations, particularly in paragraph 17, has triggered strong criticism in the scientific community.

According to the proposed amendment, the killing of vertebrate animals can be punished with a prison sentence of at least six months or longer, without any provision for monetary fines. In addition, a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine can also be imposed for negligent behavior. Due to the unclear legal definition of "reasonable grounds", these proposed changes could also put researchers at risk of imprisonment. With its regulations, this amendment massively weakens Germany as a science and research location.

As the 3R-Competence Network NRW, we have also positioned ourselves in coordination with the GV-SOLAS against the corresponding amendment proposals and presented possible solutions in a statement that would not only strengthen animal welfare in all areas, but also mitigate the potential risks for scientists. You can find our statement here: Statement by the 3R-Competence Network NRW on the draft bill to amend the Animal Welfare Act (February 2024, in German only)

Would you like to find out more about the current draft bill and its potential impact on biomedical animal research in Germany? On March 19 at 2 p.m., Prof. Klaus Gärditz, Department of Law at the University of Bonn, will explain the draft bill in our special online event. Further details and dial-in information can be found here: Animal experiments as a criminal law risk: Comments on the occasion of the amendment to the Animal Welfare Law (in German)