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ORI Introduction to RCR: Chapter 4. The Welfare of Laboratory Animals

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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 institution.
 
IACUCs. 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 facilities,
  • receiving and reviewing concerns raised about the care and use of animals, and
  • 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.
 
Animal 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.