One of the primary concerns in animal research is ensuring the welfare of laboratory animals. Modern views on animal welfare emphasize the role of animal sentience, i.e. the capacity to experience subjective states such as pleasure or suffering, as a central component of welfare. The increasing official recognition of animal sentience has had large effects on laboratory animal research. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (Low et al., University of Cambridge, 2012) marked an official scientific recognition of the presence of sentience in mammals, birds, and cephalopods. Animal sentience has furthermore been recognized in legislation in the European Union, UK, New Zealand and parts of Australia, with discussions underway in other parts of the world to follow suit. In this paper, we analyze this shift towards recognition of sentience in the regulation and practice in the treatment of laboratory animals and its effects on animal welfare and use.