All institutions covered by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) or receiving government funding for research or teaching involving laboratory animals must have an active Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The IACUC is required to have at least five members, including a veterinarian, a scientist with laboratory experience, a non-scientist, and a person who is not affiliated with the institution and does not use lab animals at another research facility. PHS Policy requires the IACUC to approve all animal use proposed in PHS grant applications before funds are awarded, and to conduct semi-annual inspections of animal care programs and facilities, using the Guide as a basis for evaluating and identifying significant deficiencies. An inspection report, including recommendations, is submitted to the Chief Executive Officer of the institution. The institution is then responsible for correcting the deficiencies. The IACUC has several federally-mandated functions including, but not limited to, the following:
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee reviews all research, testing, and instructional protocols that use vertebrate animals to assure that all procedures conform to the Public Health Service (PHS) Guidelines for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (“The Guide”) and Policies and Principles Regarding the Care and Use of Animals. The primary intent of the Committee is to ensure that animals are utilized judiciously and humanely, with minimization of pain and distress. The Committee will, however, consider the potential importance of the study, as well as alternative methods for obtaining such data before approving protocols in which pain and distress are unavoidable. If animals are to experience unavoidable pain or distress, the Animal Study Protocol must reflect how the investigator will keep the pain or distress at a minimum. Clear scientific justification and a discussion of the study’s significance must be provided for the Committee’s consideration.
It is also the IACUC’s responsibility to assure adherence to the protocol after approval. The principal investigator is obligated to report changes in his/her experimental design, animal species used, and procedure, etc., to the IACUC. This written request should include a statement of rationale and justification for changes. All protocol modifications are subject to IACUC review before implementation.
Any member of the IACUC may, at any time, review active protocols and/or observe experiments in progress to insure protocol compliance. The primary bond to protocol adherence is, however, the Committee’s trust in the integrity of the Principal Investigator and the ability to fulfill his/her moral commitment to this institution.
Members of the IACUC conduct semiannual (independent) inspections of all on-campus animal facilities, study areas/labs and the biology field station to assure compliance with The Guide and the Animal Welfare Regulations. Among items scrutinized are lighting, room temperature and humidity, cleanliness of work areas, presence of odor, condition of bedding/feed/caging, cage tag identification, proper posting of work schedules, daily care and feeding log, contact information, whistleblower information, SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures), feed storage areas, expired drugs and materials, and labeling of all containers. The IACUC then compiles observations of deficiencies and asks that investigators and/or departments correct them within a specified time frame. Investigators or departments who do not correct deficiencies may be asked to suspend research or teaching activities until the IACUC is satisfied that corrections have been made.
Annual and Semi-Annual Reports to USDA and PHS
The IACUC submits annual and semiannual reports to both the USDA and the PHS. Areas addressed in these reports include (but are not limited to) assurances that USDA regulations were adhered to, numbers of animals used, deficiencies and plans to correct deficiencies, and changes in animal care and use programs.
Addressing Public Concerns and Reports of Non-Compliance
The IACUC investigates and addresses both public and “in house” concerns about animal use on campus. The Policy for Reporting Concerns is located on the ORSP web site. Examples include answering inquiries about stolen pets, reports of excessive odor from animal quarters, and observations of mishandling animals. IACUC contact information should be posted in all animal rooms to provide concerned persons the means to report perceived deficiencies in animal care and use.