Detailed guide: Animal testing and research

Home Office

March 16
16:00 2020

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

The use of animals in experiments and testing is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) adopting the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement).

ASPA is implemented by the Home Office in England, Scotland and Wales and by the Department for Health, Social Security and Public Safety in Northern Ireland.

Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU) Guidance and technical advice

You can read ASRU guidance that explains how the Act is administered and enforced including detailed technical advice for licence holders

Compliance with ASPA

You can read how potential incidences of non-compliance with ASPA are identified and dealt with and anonymised reports of substantial investigations.

Replacement, Reduction and Refinement

The government is committed to the replacement, reduction, and refinement of the use of animals in research - the 3Rs.

The use of animals in scientific research remains a vital tool in improving our understanding of how biological systems work both in health and disease, and in the development of new medicines, treatments and technologies. Underpinning this research is a strong commitment to maintaining a rigorous regulatory system which ensures that animal research is carried out only where no practicable alternative exists and under controls which keep suffering to a minimum. This is achieved through robustly applying the principles of the 3Rs to all research proposals involving the use of animals.

Implementing the 3Rs requires that, in every research proposal, animals are replaced with non-animal alternatives wherever possible; that the number of animals is reduced to the minimum needed to achieve the results sought; and that, for those animals which must be used, procedures are refined as much as possible to minimise their suffering. The government is committed to ensuring that any licence we grant under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 must rigorously and demonstrably apply the 3Rs principles.

In 2010, the coalition government made a commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and a delivery plan has been published. The plan shows how alternative methods can deliver fast, high-quality research that also boosts economic growth. We have now published a delivery report which describes the progress made on actions set out in the delivery plan.

Applying for licences

Three licences are required by the ASPA before testing on animals is permitted:

  • personal licence for each person carrying out procedures on animals
  • project licence for the programme of work
  • establishment licence for the place at which the work is carried out

Read the guidance on applying for a licence to carry out animal testing.

Project Licence Standard Condition 18 notification

All project licences are subject to a set of standard conditions. Standard Condition 18 requires that the project licence holder (PPLh) notifies the Secretary of State as soon as possible if constraints on the severity limits, or observance of other controls described in the licence, have been breached or are likely to have been breached. You can read our Advice note - Project Licence Standard Condition 18 Notification (PDF, 368KB, 22 pages), and our proforma Project Licence Standard Condition 18 Notification form (MS Word Document, 46.3KB) for making reports.


The full report of the 2018 statistics on scientific procedures on living animals was published on 18 July 2019.

You can also view previous reports in the Statistics of scientific procedures on living animals collection.

Annual returns

Statistics are collected annually in the United Kingdom to meet the requirements of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to collect and publish statistical information on the use of protected animals in regulated procedures.

If you are a project licence holder please read our guidance on the annual returns process

Non-technical summaries

Publication of non-technical summaries is a legal requirement under Article 43 of EU Directive 2010/63. This mandatory requirement will help put the debate on the use of animals in research and testing on a much better informed footing.

You can view:

Details of project licences granted under ASPA in 2010 to 2012 are available on The National Archives.

Dealing with complaints and disagreements

The process below can be used if you are unhappy about any aspect of ASRUs work. The process will be:

  1. contact
  2. in your e-mail set out the grounds for your concern and any supporting information.
  3. ASRU Business Support will record the concern. The concern will be passed to either a principal inspector or another manager within the unit to follow-up. The decision on who should investigate would be taken by the Head of Unit.
  4. the concern will be investigated and discussed with the member of staff concerned.
  5. a conclusion and recommendation from the concern will be drawn up and passed on to you, the staff member concerned and to

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