The task of assuring that researchers adhere to theregulations and
guidelines for the responsible care anduse of animals is generally recognized
to be an institutional responsibility. Institutions vest authority for
animal care and use in an “institutional official” (IO),
who in turn appoints the Congressionally mandated Institutional Animal
Care and Use Committee (IACUC), administers institutional care and use
units at institutions that are large enough to have such, and handles
other general matters relating to the care and use of animals at that
Following the provisions of the 1985 Health Research Extension Act,
PHS Policy, USDA regulations, the Guide, and the Association for Assessment
and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) require research
institutions to establish an IACUC. IACUCs oversee and evaluate all
aspects of the institution’s animal program, procedures, and facilities.
Its members must include a doctor of veterinary medicine, one researcher
who uses animals in research, and one person who is not affiliated with
the institution. Many IACUCs also have a researcher who does not use
animals or a member who has some grounding in ethics.
IACUC Members are appointed by their institution, but they have considerable
independent authority. Their responsibilities include:
- reviewing and approving all animal use research proposals,
- reviewing the institution’s animal care program,
- inspecting (at least twice a year) the institution’s animal
- receiving and reviewing concerns raised about the care and use of
- submitting reports to the Institutional Official.
IACUCs also have independent authority to suspend projects if they
determine that they are not being conducted in accordance with applicable
requirements. This authority comes directly from Congress through the
Health Research Extension Act and can be exercised independent of any
other institutional administrative authority.
care and use units. Research institutions with large
animal research programs generally have centralized animal care and
use units that provide veterinary support, training in procedures, and
advice on analgesics, anesthesia, euthanasia, and occupational health
and safety. While the staff employed in these units cannot approve research
protocols for the institution or make decisions specifically assigned
to the institutional IACUC, as animal care professionals they are an
excellent local source of information about the responsible care and
use of animals in research.