Animals: Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)
Guidance & Education
- Alternatives and the Animal Welfare Act, USDA tip sheet
- Alternatives to Painful/Distressful Procedures, a step-by-step approach to an alternatives search.
- How to Search for Alternatives, information on searching bibliographic databases for alternatives.
- Meeting the Information Requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, an AWIC presentation on how to conduct Category D and E literature searches; also lists search evaluation criteria for both the PI and the IACUC.
- Searching for Alternatives to Painful Procedures Used on Research Animals, NIH tip sheet
Animal Experiments Covered Under the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules–a cheat sheet for applicable regulations for research involving animals
One of the more challenging roles of the IACUC is to review animal protocols and ensure that each includes a well-justified estimate of the minimum number of animals needed to accomplish research objectives. The IACUC has developed a document that includes a set of resources and approaches for adequately justifying animal numbers. The IACUC strongly encourages PIs to refer to the attached document for guidance on how to justify the number of animals required when preparing IACUC protocols. Justifications that are based solely on “past experience”, funding, or space limitations will not be acceptable.
Animal experiments are not always well-designed, leading to both ethical concerns and a waste of scientific resources. This is a world-wide problem. Training scientists is difficult as there are so few statisticians who have a good understanding of laboratory animal science and are able to provide such training.
However, a new interactive website designed to help scientists improve the design of their animal experiments is now available. Following an introduction on the ethics of animal experimentation and the need for improvements, the website covers topics such as choice of experimental units, avoiding bias, power and sample size, controlling variability, types of experimental design, factorial experiments, statistical analysis, and publication guidelines. Most sections are followed by a “Test yourself” page of true/false questions. The website is free and non-commercial.
Ph.D. supervisors and members of ethical review committees could ask anyone new to animal research to work through the site and download the pdf certificate which states: “I certify that I have worked through all pages of the website www.3Rs-Reduction.co.uk and that I understand the importance of good experimental design in minimizing the number of laboratory animals used in biomedical research.” Over time, this should lead to a general improvement, saving both animals and scientific resources.
- Writing Clear Animal Activity Proposals This article from the June 2011 issue of Lab Animal discusses the common problems in protocols reviewed by the IACUC and offers a framework for investigators writing animal activity proposals.
The Objectives and Benefits sections of IACUC protocols need to be written so that a non-scientist, lay person can understand what the study is about. The IACUC has developed some paired examples of Objectives statements that are overly technical and more lay-friendly descriptions that may help PIs when crafting their own Objectives and Benefits sections (attached).
The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) clarified the requirements of the Vertebrate Animal Section of NIH contract proposals in a notice issued April 19, 2010. In summary, the notice states that the following information must be included in all contract proposals submitted to the NIH that involve live vertebrate animals:
- Detailed description of the animals and their proposed use
- Justifications for the use of animals, choice of species, number to be used, etc.
- Description of the veterinary care of the animals, including veterinary support that is relevant to the proposed procedures
- Description of procedures for minimizing discomfort, distress, pain, and injury
- Description of the methods of euthanasia and the rationale for the method selected
For further details about these requirements, please see the OLAW notice NOT-OD-10-049.
This page contains resources for personnel working with animals including an animal hazard assessment form, information about chemicals, carcinogens, and sharps safety, and links to hazards you may encounter while working with animals.