(Click here for the long version of the history of AAALAC.)
AAALAC International promotes the responsible treatment of animals in science through a voluntary accreditation program. For 50 years, the scientific community has actively—and voluntarily—participated in AAALAC's accreditation program. Participating institutions receive an independent, unbiased expert assessment, and those that meet or exceed applicable standards are awarded accreditation.
The program started in 1965, when leading veterinarians and researchers organized the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), as a private, nonprofit organization. In the years that followed, AAALAC accredited hundreds of organizations across the United States, raising the benchmark for laboratory animal care to new heights.
In 1996, AAALAC changed its name to the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC International). The name change reflected the organization's recognition in other countries, and its commitment to enhancing life sciences and quality animal care around the world.
Today, nearly 1,000 organizations worldwide (as of 31 December 2017) are accredited by AAALAC International. In 2016 AAALAC ceased spelling out its acronym in favor of simply using "AAALAC International" as its legal, official name. As AAALAC's accreditation program has grown to encompass many wildlife and agricultural animal research programs, dropping the use of the word "laboratory" in conjunction with AAALAC allows for greater inclusivity.
In addition, more than 60 prestigious scientific, educational and other professional organizations are members of AAALAC International. These "Member Organizations" include the American Heart Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, Asian Federation of Laboratory Animal Science Associations, European Society of Laboratory Animal Veterinarians, the National Association for Biomedical Research, and the Society of Toxicology. Participation as a Member Organization demonstrates commitment to the responsible and humane use of animals in science.
The Council on Accreditation is the group responsible for evaluating animal programs and determining their accreditation status. Members of the Council are chosen to serve based on their extensive experience in the fields of veterinary medicine, laboratory animal science or animal research, and their commitment to humane animal care and use. The Council is divided into North American, Pacific Rim and European Sections.
The Council conducts on-site visits and extensive evaluations, and provides ongoing advice to help organizations achieve and maintain accreditation. The Council also appoints a roster of ad hoc Consultants/Specialists. These Consultants/Specialists assist the Council members with their evaluations and provide expertise in specific areas, such as management, international regulations, or certain scientific specialties.
Along with meeting all applicable local and national regulations, AAALAC accredited institutions must also demonstrate that they are achieving the standards outlined in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide, NRC 2011); the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching (Ag Guide, FASS 2010); and the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals Used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes, Council of Europe (ETS 123). The standards in the Guide go above and beyond what is required by law.
Institutions choose to participate in the AAALAC accreditation program for a variety of reasons. Some use accreditation as a symbol of quality—it shows that an institution is serious about setting, achieving and maintaining high standards for animal research programs. AAALAC accreditation also promotes scientific validity—when research involves animals, reliable results depend on healthy animals and superior animal care. And perhaps most importantly, accreditation demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond the minimums required by law, and assures the public that the institution is committed to the responsible use and treatment of animals in science.