Best practices for animal care committees and animal use oversight.
Regulatory authorities around the world with oversight responsibility for the welfare of research animals have placed heavily reliance on local oversight committees. These animal care committees (ACCs) are part of an institutional animal welfare team that includes the institutional administration, principal investigators, attending veterinarian and animal care staff, as well as regulatory organizations and authorities. As a key component of this team, most ACCs function as an agent of the institution to ensure regulatory animal welfare compliance. Although regulatory testing involving animals presents some unique circumstances, the focus of all animal care committees is to minimize animal pain and distress. Federal requirements are often couched within a regulatory framework that is performance based and therefore very flexible. Thus, it is important for ACCs to establish very simple and specific institutional requirements and procedures and to work at promoting a broad understanding of them within their respective institutions. Experience suggests that ambiguity at the local level results in many unintended side effects and confusion. There are many "best practices" that can help the ACC promote institutional compliance and good animal welfare. These practices, although not universally appropriate for all institutions or activities, include ACC coordinator or administrator, designated protocol reviewer, alternate or duel ACC members, generic protocols and standard operating procedures, centralized controls and animal care facilities, conducting pilot studies, and ensuring the most humane endpoints. (+info)
Ethical issues concerning animal research outside the laboratory.
Unique ethical issues can be associated with research outside the customary laboratory setting. Protocols involving wild animals must consider that any infringement on the wild nature of the species can be disruptive and may involve pain, fear, anxiety, and frustration, all of which constitute ethical harm that must be balanced with anticipated benefit. Agricultural and companion animal research, however, take place in a human-engineered environment and involves domesticated species adapted to human contact. Special animal welfare issues can be related to agricultural production goals that fail to deal adequately with moral concerns. Human/companion animal relationships, on the other hand, present unique moral obligations to animal owners. Other factors may present additional ethical issues when research is performed outside the laboratory. These factors include a required sensitivity to the environment of wild animals and an awareness that this outside research may to quite public and, therefore, vulnerable to community perception. The institutional animal care and use committee(IACUC) has the responsibility to ensure that research in outside settings is ethical and properly implemented. This responsibility requires that IACUC members have knowledge of the needs of a wide range of species and that a process is in place to allow effective monitoring of research in remote locations. Finally, and most important, there must be a sensitivity to the unique ethical considerations outlined here. Armed with these strengths, the IACUC will be effective in what may be unfamiliar surroundings and will have a significant opportunity to cause improvements in animal welfare. (+info)
Agricultural (nonbiomedical) animal research outside the laboratory: a review of guidelines for institutional animal care and use committees.
Challenges and published guidelines associated with appropriate care and use of farm animals in agricultural research conducted outside the laboratory are briefly reviewed. The Animal Welfare Act (Title 9 of the 2000 Code of Federal Regulations), which regulates the care and use of agricultural animals in biomedical research, does not include livestock and poultry used in agricultural research. Farm animal research funded (and thereby regulated) by the US Public Health Service is further discussed in the National Research Council's 1996 Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. However, neither of these guidelines adequately addresses the unique attributes of research and teaching designed to improve production agriculture. That information is contained in the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Research and Teaching (the Ag Guide), published by the Federation of Animal Science Societies in 1999. The Ag Guide provides excellent general recommendations for agricultural animal research. It serves as an invaluable resource for institutional animal care and use committees, which attempt to balance the welfare of farm animals and the needs of those working to improve animal agriculture. (+info)
Does the Animal Welfare Act apply to free-ranging animals?
Despite the long-standing role that institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) have played in reviewing and approving studies at academic institutions, compliance with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is not always complete for government natural resource agencies that use free-ranging animals in research and management studies. Even at universities, IACUCs face uncertainties about what activities are covered and about how to judge proposed research on free-ranging animals. One reason for much of the confusion is the AWA vaguely worded exemption for "field studies." In particular, fish are problematic because of the AWA exclusion of poikilothermic animals. However, most university IACUCs review studies on all animals, and the Interagency Research Animal Committee (IRAC) has published the "IRAC Principles," which extend coverage to all vertebrates used by federal researchers. Despite this extended coverage, many scientists working on wild animals continue to view compliance with the AWA with little enthusiasm. IACUCs, IACUC veterinarians, wildlife veterinarians, and fish and wildlife biologists must learn to work together to comply with the law and to protect the privilege of using free-ranging animals in research. (+info)
Opportunistic research and sampling combined with fisheries and wildlife management actions or crisis response.
Currently most of the activities of state, federal, first nation, and private conservation agencies, including management of and field research on free-ranging wildlife, are not regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and thus not subject to National Institutes of Health guidelines or routine institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) review. However, every day thousands of fish and wildlife management activities occur across North America that provide an opportunity to take observations, measurements, biological specimens, or samples that may have research value. Most of these opportunities are secondary to ongoing and often mandated wildlife management or conservation actions. Strange as it may seem to the academic and research community, the full research potentials of these opportunities are rarely utilized. IACUCs and research institutions should strive to facilitate such research, which by its very nature is often more opportunistic than designed. They can do this by ensuring that their policies do not unnecessarily impede the rapid research responses needed, or over burden researchers with inappropriate reporting requirements designed for laboratory research. The most prominent reasons for failures to utilize wildlife research opportunities include lack of the following: personnel and expertise to collect and use the information; preparation for inevitable (or predictable) events (e.g., oil spills); resources to preserve and curate specimens; a mandate to conduct research; and recognition of the value in data or sample collection. IACUC support of open protocols and generic sampling plans can go a long way toward improving the development of useful knowledge from animals that will otherwise be lost. Opportunities to sample wildlife are categorized generally as dead sampling (road kill surveys, harvest sampling, lethal collection, and "die-offs"); live sampling (handling for marking, relocation or restocking; and captures for field or biological studies); and crisis response (e.g., population salvage operations or oil spills). Examples of the many unique situations in each category serve to illustrate how valuable research and sampling can be accomplished opportunistically. Several unique limitations of sample collection situation are described. It is recommended that IACUCs have mechanisms in place to facilitate good research in all of these circumstances. (+info)
Fish research and the institutional animal care and use committee.
Fish represent the most diverse group of animals in the vertebrate phylum. The more than 25,000 species are characterized by an array of anatomical, biochemical, physiological, and behavioral repertoires. For this reason, it is difficult to develop a comprehensive guideline on the care and use of fishes. Institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) meet the challenge of ensuring adequate fish welfare using guidelines (Animal Welfare Act [AWA] and Public Health Service [PHS] Policy and their guides) derived mainly from the care and use of mammalian species, which may not be optimal for regulating fish research, teaching, or extension activities. Discussion focuses on various issues that often confront IACUCs in meeting regulatory requirements while assuring proper fish welfare. Issues include questions concerning animal tracking and inventory, utilization of fisheries bycatch, facility inspections in remote locations, and euthanasia. Common sense solutions appropriate for field and laboratory fish activities are suggested, which should help investigators, IACUCs, and regulatory agencies meet PHS and AWA objectives. (+info)
Surgical implantation of transmitters into fish.
Although the Animal Welfare Act does not cover poikilotherms, individual institutions and policies and legal requirements other than the Animal Welfare Act (e.g., the US Public Health Service and the Interagency Research Animal Committee's Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training) require the review of projects involving fish by institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs). IACUCs may, however, lack the knowledge and experience to evaluate fish projects judiciously, especially when the projects are in field settings. Surgeries involving implantation of transmitters and other instruments into the coelom, which now comprise a very common research tool in the study of free-ranging fishes, are examples of surgeries that use a broad spectrum of surgical and anesthetic techniques, some of which would not be considered acceptable for similar work on mammals. IACUCs should apply the standards they would expect to be used for surgeries on homeotherms to surgeries on fish. Surgeons should be carefully trained and experienced. Surgical instruments and transmitters should be sterile. Regulations and laws on the use of drugs in animals should be followed, particularly those concerned with anesthetics and antibiotics used on free-ranging fish. Exceptions to surgical procedures should be made only when circumstances are extreme enough to warrant the use of less than optimal procedures. (+info)