Ensuring Animal Health and Welfare
Federal Animal Welfare regulations and policies require that all registered research institutions have a written Program of Veterinary Care. ULAR veterinarians, veterinary services personnel and vivarium/animal husbandry staff work together with research staff the IACUC to ensure the health and welfare of all animals used or intended for use in research, testing, teaching or for related purposes.
To ensure the welfare of research animals, researchers and staff must:
The Experimental Design section of the IACUC protocol narrative asks about and discusses potential pain, distress and discomfort associated with the experimental agents and procedures, diseases, injuries and genetic manipulations encountered as part of the project. Researchers are required as a condition of IACUC approval to carefully consider the potential for pain and distress in their projects, address the clinical signs that may appear in the animals, and propose methods for ameliorating the negative effects.
Research personnel are responsible for observing their animals on a schedule that is reasonable for the specific research procedures being conducted. While it is true that husbandry staff see every animal every day, this “welfare check” may not be adequate to ensure the welfare of all animals and thus researchers are required to periodically check on their animals. This is especially true following laboratory procedures such as survival surgery or administration of toxic substances. Laboratory personnel involved with the research procedures are best qualified to assess the animals as they are more familiar with the animals' past treatments and expected outcome.
Consult with Veterinarians
Veterinary Services staff and veterinarians with specific expertise in laboratory animal medicine are available 24 hours per day - 7 days per week to examine animals and make recommendations to ensure their welfare. The on-call veterinarian can be reached after hours, weekends and holidays by calling 949-824-7788. Direct and frequent communication between Lead Researchers, laboratory staff and ULAR veterinary staff concerning the health and well-being of the animals can keep minor issues from escalating and prevent unnecessary loss of animals and valuable data, ensuring optimal animal welfare at all times.
Even with the best planning, unanticipated serious adverse events may occur, including morbidity or mortality of an animal under or as a result of procedures (such as surgery or anesthesia), or the development of pain, discomfort or distress significantly greater than what was described in the approved protocol narrative. All serious or unanticipated adverse events should be reported immediately to a ULAR veterinarian. If necropsy is indicated, it should be done as soon as possible after the death of the animal to ensure a meaningful examination; ULAR veterinarians will perform necropsy if research personnel cannot do so.
Veterinarians and the IACUC should be informed about issues related to animal health, behavior and well-being and any serious or unanticipated adverse events. Lead Researchers are encouraged to report events informally to the IACUC as they occur, and are required to provide this information at the time of annual reviews and continuing renewals.
Animal Welfare Concerns
The IACUC relies on the observations of individuals to ensure the well-being of all research animals. All research personnel as well as animal husbandry staff are encouraged to contact the IACUC Administrative Office if they:
- See animals that appear to be in pain/distress
- Witness or are involved in an incident that may affect the welfare of laboratory animals at UCI
- Have a concern about the conduct of personnel handling laboratory animals
- Have a concern about protocol integrity
These reports may be made by phone, email, or in writing and can be made anonymously.