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Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee
Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees are of central importance to the application of laws to animal research in the United States. Most research involving laboratory animals is funded by the United States National Institutes of Health or other federal agencies. The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare has been directed by law to develop policies that describe the role of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees.
Every institution that uses animals for federally funded laboratory research must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The IACUC must consist of at least one veterinarian with training in laboratory animal science and expertise in the species under consideration, at least one practicing research scientist, and at least one person not affiliated with the institution to represent community interests in proper care and use of animals. The institution typically appoints the non-affiliated member of the IACUC, much the same as it appoints the affiliated members. Each local IACUC reviews research protocols and conducts evaluations of the institution's animal care and use which includes the results of inspections of facilities that are required by law. Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees must have a way to correct problems in animal care including fair treatment of whistleblowers.
Additional recommended knowledge
History of IACUCs
Amendments were added to the United States Animal Welfare Act in 1970. It became law that, "Enclosures shall be constructed and maintained so as to provide sufficient space to allow each animal to make normal postural and social adjustments with adequate freedom of movement. Inadequate space may be indicated by evidence of malnutrition, poor condition, debility, stress, or abnormal behavior patterns."An indication of the state of conventional thinking at that time is illustrated by the fact that officials of the United States Department of Agriculture resisted the idea that dogs used in laboratory research should be given daily walks.
In the early 1970s, two options were available for institutions making use of warm-blooded animals for laboratory research. One way for such institutions to comply with United States animal welfare laws was to be accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). The second option was to have a local institutional animal care committee that would include a veterinarian and take responsibility for making sure that the institution conformed to all government mandated animal care rules.
In 1973 the United States Public Health Service specified that local animal care committees needed to have a minimum of three members. Institutions that did not use large numbers of animals were not required to have a veterinarian on the committee as long as a member of the committee had the training and experience in animal care that was required to care for the animals being used in that institution's research. In order to obtain government research funding, animal care committees were required to make reports documenting facilities and animal care practices.
In 1979 all institutions seeking government funding for research involving animals were required to have an institutional animal use committee, even if the institution was AAALAC-accredited. Institutions were advised to establish a research protocol review process by which the institutional animal use committee would review individual research proposals in order to confirm that proposed research would be conducted according to government-established animal care guidelines. In order to obtain government funding, institutions needed to certify that they had an animal use committee that was working to keep the institution in compliance with government-mandated animal care guidelines. Each grant application submitted to federal funding agencies had to include an explicit description of how laboratory animal use would be conducted so as to comply with animal welfare laws and guidelines.
Shortly after founding PETA, Alex Pacheco worked as a volunteer at the Institute for Biological Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. He reported violations of the Animal Welfare Act and police seized monkeys from the Institute for Biological Research. Resulting legal cases, in what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case, eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, generating large amounts of publicity. The United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology held hearings that eventually resulted in major changes to animal welfare laws in 1985. In 1986, newly mandated changes in United States Public Health Service policy and guidelines for animals used in research included a requirement that each institution seeking federal funding have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee that would make sure that animal care conformed to the Animal Welfare Act.
The National Research Council of the US National Academy of Sciences provides a Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory AnimalsAnimal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The results of these inspections are made available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act .and follows the Government principles for the utilization and care of vertebrate animals used in testing, research, and training . These documents guide the actions of local Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. Inspections of institutions that use animals in research are conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture. Compliance of institutions with the Animal Welfare Act is measured by the results of unannounced inspections by the
Reliability of IACUCs
The central importance of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees means that animal care and use is fundamentally dependent on the application of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals regulations by an institution’s committee. It has been suggested that one measure of the success of the IACUC system is the reliability of protocol approvals between institutions. In other words, would a protocol for animal use, approved by the IACUC at one institution, be approved at another institution? This question was addressed specifically by researchers Plous and Herzog in 2001: 
Over the past 20 years, the reliability of scientific peer-review judgments has been a topic of frequent debate and scrutiny. However, one area of peer review that has not received much empirical investigation is the system that protects animal subjects from research risks. At most research institutions, studies involving animal subjects must be approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). … … [W]e conducted a study of randomly selected IACUCs from U.S. universities and colleges. Seventy committees were drawn from a master list of 916 IACUCs maintained by the U.S. Office for Protection from Research Risks. Of these 70, 50 agreed to participate in the study…. In all, 494 of 566 voting members (151 females and 343 males), or 87% of those approached, took part in the study..
A September 2005 Audit Report issued by the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Agriculture also spelled out problems with the reliability of IACUC oversight. The Audit Report goes on at length regarding the failure of IACUCs to effectively review protocols and ensure compliance with federal Animal Welfare laws:
"Some IACUCs are not effectively monitoring animal care activities, protocols, or alternative research methods. This situation exists because (1) the IACUCs are only required to conduct facility reviews on a semiannual basis, (2) IACUCs experience a high turnover rate, and (3) some members are not properly trained. In very few cases, the facilities are resistant to change, showing a general disregard for APHIS regulations. As a result, the facilities are not conducting research in compliance with the AWA or, in some cases, not providing humane conditions for research animals."
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Institutional_Animal_Care_and_Use_Committee". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|