A program of animal care and use includes multiple components that work synergistically to support activities involving laboratory animals. This section includes descriptions of each of 7 different components that collectively constitute a program of animal care and use.
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, or IACUC, is a committee appointed by the Chief Executive Officer of the institution. The IACUC has certain federally mandated responsibilities, such as review of protocols and periodic evaluations of the program of animal care and use, including inspections of facilities. The ARENA/OLAW IACUC Guidebook (PDF) is a recommended manual for IACUCs.
The membership and functions of the IACUC are described in detail in the next section - The IACUC.
An important component of a program is the IACUC's use of standardized procedures, sometimes referred to as SOPs or standard operating procedures. Typically, each institution will develop its own procedures, following Federal guidelines, to address:
- conduct of IACUC semiannual program evaluations;
- IACUC inspection of animal facilities;
- protocol review;
- handling of concerns about animal care or use;
- treatment of whistleblowers (required by the Animal Welfare Regulations);
- maintenance of IACUC records; and
- development of reports to the Institutional Official.
Many IACUCs also develop institutional policies regarding animal use; for example, humane endpoints, physical restraint, multiple survival surgical procedures, and food or fluid regulation.
" Veterinary care is an essential part of an animal care and use Program" (Guide, p. 105)
Arrangements for veterinary care will depend on the institution and the size of the animal program. Consultant or part-time veterinary services may be appropriate for small programs with limited numbers of animals. Under all circumstances, there must be a direct channel of open communication between the Institutional Official and the veterinarian.
The veterinary care program should contain the following components:
- access to all animals and periodic assessment of animal well-being;
- appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment, and services;
- treatment of diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend and holiday care;
- guidelines for animal procurement and transportation;
- preventive medicine;
- presurgical planning, training, monitoring, and postsurgical care;
- relief of pain and distress including selection of analgesics, anesthetics, and tranquilizers;
- methods of euthanasia; and
- drug storage and control.
The attending veterinarian must have the authority to implement the veterinary care program, and to oversee the adequacy of all other aspects of animal care and use, e.g, animal husbandry, nutrition, sanitation practices, zoonosis control, and hazard containment.
The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine's (ACLAM) Guidelines for Adequate Veterinary Care (PDF) is a recommended reference on the topic of veterinary care.
It is the responsibility of the institution to ensure that all personnel involved in animal care and use are appropriately qualified to perform their duties and conduct proposed activities. The PHS Policy explicitly requires that training includes research or testing methods that minimize the number of animals required to obtain valid results and minimize animal distress.
The development and implementation of a training program are usually performed by the IACUC, the veterinary staff, and investigators using animals. Program content is governed by legal requirements and by specific scientific activities conducted at the institution.
A number of self-instructive audiovisual materials and manuals are available. The American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS) offers formal training and certification programs and there are commercially available training materials available for self-guided study. The USDA Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) has information on many materials and programs, and a loan program for items in its library. Training and Adult Learning Strategies for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, a 2007 issue of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) Journal that provides an update to Education and Training in the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: A Guide for Developing Institutional Programs, developed by the ILAR Committee on Educational Programs in Laboratory Animal Science, is a comprehensive reference on this subject.
"Each institution must establish and maintain an occupational health and safety program (OHSP) as an essential part of the overall Program of animal care and use." (Guide, p. 17)
An effective occupational health and safety program must encompass all personnel that have contact with animals. Depending on the facility, research activities, hazards, and animal species involved, the program may not affect all personnel equally. Minimally, the program should include:
- pre-placement medical evaluation;
- identification of hazards to personnel and safeguards appropriate to the risks associated with the hazards;
- appropriate testing and vaccinations;
- training of personnel regarding their duties, any hazards, and necessary safeguards;
- policies and facilities that promote cleanliness;
- provisions for treating and documenting job-related injuries and illnesses;
- facilities, equipment, and procedures designed, selected, and developed to reduce the possibility of physical injury or health risk to personnel;
- good personal hygiene practices, prohibiting eating and drinking, use of tobacco products, and application of cosmetics and/or contact lenses in animal rooms and laboratories; and
- personal protective equipment (PPE).
Occupational Health and Safety in the Care and Use of Research Animals , published in 1997 by the National Research Council, includes helpful guidelines and references for establishing and maintaining an effective and comprehensive program.
"The design of animal facilities combined with appropriate animal housing and management are essential contributors to animal well-being, the quality of animal research and production, teaching or testing programs involving animals, and the health and safety of personnel." (Guide, p. 41)
A program of animal care and use will include attention to:
- aspects of the physical plant where animals are housed such as location, components, construction, management, and operation;
- the physical and social environment of the animals;
- animal husbandry which encompasses food, water, bedding, sanitation, waste disposal, and pest control;
- animal identification, genetic monitoring, and animal health records; and
- daily observation of and care for animals, including weekends and holidays.
Facilities must have a disaster plan to prepare for unexpected conditions that could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of personnel and animals. The requirement for institutional disaster planning is found in the Guide (p. 35). The plan should:
- define the actions needed to prevent animal pain, distress, and deaths due to loss of critical systems;
- coordinate with investigator(s) to identify irreplaceable animal populations and institutional needs and resources;
- identify essential personnel and include training of those personnel;
- include measures to ensure personnel safety and security; and
- integrate with law enforcement and areawide emergency planning.