More than 50 years ago, the Professional Standards Committee of the Animal Care Panel (ACP), now the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS), recognized a need for assuring the general public that laboratory animal research was conducted on a professional level, and that standard procedures were applied. This concept represents the beginning of the effort to form an accreditation program for laboratory animal care and use.
Incorporated in 1965, the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) has conducted a voluntary accreditation program for laboratory animals for more than 50 years. The cornerstone of AAALAC's success is based on the ideals and sound philosophy of its founders. Its history, compiled by J. Derrell Clark, D.V.M., D.Sc., is informative for understanding how the accreditation process evolved into the current program.
1950 - 1965: The Animal Care Panel
During the mid to late forties in Chicago there was a great deal of anti-vivisection activity, especially aimed at research facilities using pound animals. The field of animal research underwent considerable growth after World War II and a new specialty in laboratory animal medicine was evolving.
Veterinarians at the major Chicago institutions gathered together informally to discuss and share information about the care of laboratory animals. These pioneers included Nathen R. Brewer, D.V.M., Ph.D., University of Chicago; Elihu Bond, D.V.M., University of Illinois; Bennett J. Cohen, D.V.M., Ph.D., Northwestern University; Robert J. Flynn, D.V.M., Argonne National Laboratory; and Robert J. Schroeder, D.V.M., Hektoen Institute for Medical Research of Cook County Hospital.
Before the end of the decade, a movement emerged from this group to form a national organization to address the issues facing the growing field of laboratory animal science. The Animal Care Panel (ACP) held its first annual meeting in Chicago in 1950.
As animal research expanded, and the responsibility of caring for animals shifted from the individual researcher to an institutional caretaker, the ACP's role was to provide a forum for exchanging information on the care and management of animals and the design of animal facilities. A major accomplishment was the publication of Standards for the Care of the Dog Used in Medical Research by the ACP Committee on Regulations for the Care of the Dog in 1952.
At about the same time, the Surgery Study Section of the Division of Research Grants of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its publication entitled the Care of the Dog Used in Medical Research. It would be more than 10 years before the Guide for Laboratory Animal Facilities and Care would be published.
In the early years, the ACP struggled with the conceptualization of an accreditation program for laboratory animal facilities. In December 1957, the ACP Committee for the Consideration of Animal Regulatory Activities met. This Committee, chaired by J. C. Kile, Jr., D.V.M. and including R. D. Henthorne, D.V.M. and Berton F. Hill produced a report addressing the issues of an accreditation program. The report suggested the mechanics for ACP to operate an accreditation program and recommended that the ACP undertake regulatory and accreditation functions for laboratory animals breeders. This recommendation was especially timely given the recognized high infection and disease rates in many commercially produced animals. However, the ACP did not adopt the recommendation.
In the fall of 1959, issues concerning cruelty to animals surfaced following accusations made by the Humane Society of the United States. Considering the environment associated with these accusations, the ACP appointed a Committee on Ethical Considerations in the Care of Laboratory Animals, chaired by William I. Gay, D.V.M., to evaluate the allegations of inadequate animal care and to provide objective review, if invited by an institution. Without criteria for evaluating animal care programs, the Committee was unable to meet its charge. Therefore, the Committee's principal function became developing standards of care, and its name was changed to Professional Standards Committee (PRC) to reflect its new focus.
The ACP took the lead in the development of standards for laboratory animal care and use. In 1960, the PRC, renamed the Animal Facilities Certification Committee (AFCC), outlined a certification program for the Board's approval. An Animal Facilities Certification Board (AFCB) was nominated, including B. J. Cohen, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Thomas B. Clarkson, D.V.M.; R. J. Flynn, D.V.M.; M.M. Rabstein, D.V.M.; Orland A. Soave, D.V.M.; W. T. S. Thorp, D.V.M.; and Bernard F. Trum, D.V.M. Its focus was to determine professional standards for laboratory animal care and develop an accreditation program.
The NIH, Division of Research Grants issued a contract to the ACP to "determine and establish professional standards for laboratory animal care and facilities." Dr. Cohen was Principal Investigator for the project and Drs. Clarkson, Flynn, Soave, Thorp and Trum were co-investigators.
In addition to the NIH support, this effort was aided by grants from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Heart Association, the New York State Society for Medical Research, and the Medical Research Association of California.
In 1963, the Guide for Laboratory Animal Facilities and Care was published by the U. S. Public Health Service, culminating a 2½ year effort by many individuals and organizations to develop criteria for the professional care of laboratory animals. Today the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Guide), now in its seventh edition, remains the primary resource for establishing and maintaining laboratory animal programs.
In 1963, the AFCB's name was changed to the Animal Facilities Accreditation Board (AFAB). The AFAB was expanded and B. J. Cohen, D.V.M., Ph.D.; George Bjotvedt, V.M.D.; N. R. Brewer, D.V.M., Ph.D.; Jules S. Cass, D.V.M.; Lauritz R. Christensen, Ph.D.; R. J. Flynn, D.V.M.; B. F. Hill; Warren G. Hoag, D.V.M., MPH, MRSH; Geoffrey H. Lord, D.V.M., Ph.D.; M. M. Rabstein, D.V.M.; O. A. Soave, D.V.M.; and B. F. Trum, D.V.M. were appointed to serve. The AFAB goal was to define conditions of animal care and use which promoted sound and proper animal research.
The proposed accreditation program was intended to assist institutions in voluntarily evaluating their animal facilities in order to achieve the highest standards of care. The proposed program planned for site visits to be conducted by qualified professionals experienced in managing an animal colony. Pilot visits were conducted to Indiana University Medical College, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of California at San Francisco, and the University of Southern California.
The National Advisory Committee (NAC) to the AFAB was appointed in 1964 by ACP President R. J. Flynn. Initially its membership consisted of representatives from seven organizations contributing to the financing of the program to test the feasibility of the concept of an accreditation program. These organizations were: American College of Physicians, American Dental Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association.
The NAC was later expanded to include representatives of other organizations having a major interest in the program. The NAC charge was a) to represent the interest of the scientific community generally in the program, b) to represent the classes of institutions likely to be affected by the program, and c) to advise the AFAB in conducting and implementing the feasibility program nationally.
The next step toward an accreditation program was to test the feasibility of the concept and the suitability of the criteria in the Guide in representative scientific institutions. Prior to the finalization of the accreditation program, Laboratory Animal Care published an editorial in which Dr. Cohen stated that this program is based upon voluntary evaluation by peers and that the regulatory implications are very different from those in most of the pending Federal legislation.
On September 15, 1964 the AFAB submitted a detailed report entitled "Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Facilities and Care." After reviewing the report, the ACP Board of Directors (BOD) acknowledged that a privately operated voluntary program of accreditation of animal care programs was feasible and could be operated nationally. The BOD agreed that the implementation of a national accreditation program would require the endorsement, cooperation, participation, and financial support of the scientific community.
The AFAB served as the initiating body in the establishment of a new nonprofit corporation to administer the accreditation program. The new accrediting corporation would be directed by representatives of member societies within the biomedical community interested in excellence in laboratory animal care and use.
The Formation of AAALAC
The articles of incorporation for the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) were filed on April 8, 1965. The first organizational meeting was held in Des Plaines, Illinois near O'Hare Airport on April 30, 1965.
At its first meeting, representatives from the fourteen charter member organizations were present. These organizations were: American Association of Dental Schools, American College of Physicians, American Dental Association, American Heart Association, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, Animal Care Panel, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, National Society of Medical Research, and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association.
In the organizational process, the NAC of the AFAB became the AAALAC Board of Trustees (BOT). The first officers were: Chairman, Maurice B. Visscher, M.D.; Vice Chairman, Henry T. Ricketts, M.D.; Secretary, L. Meyer Jones, D.V.M., Ph.D.; and Treasurer, Leslie R. Burrows, DDS, Ph.D. At this meeting, operational decisions were made including the terms of office for the members of the BOT, administration of the program, and the formation of the Council.
At the first meeting of the Council on Accreditation, the AFAB served as members with Dr. Cohen as Chairperson and Dr. Trum as Vice Chairperson. The Council approved a form to be used by site visitors, an application form to be used by institutions seeking accreditation and selected consultants to assist the Council on site visits. A goal of 30 institutions to be site visited in 1965 was established.
AAALAC: 1965 - Present
During the first years of operation some of the member organizations provided essential financial support for the fledgling program. From the beginning, the founders of AAALAC realized that acceptance by the scientific and professional community was vital to the success of the accreditation program.
Although its beginnings in Joliet, and then New Lenox, Illinois were humble, today AAALAC's location in the Washington, D.C., area illustrates its active involvement with educational, government, and scientific organizations. National interest in animal research affords AAALAC with the opportunity to play a significant role in assisting the scientific community in establishing and maintaining criteria for care. It is generally acknowledged that AAALAC is one of the important factors in improving animal care and use.
In 1996, AAALAC changed its name to the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC International). The name change reflects the organization's growth in other countries and its commitment to enhancing life sciences and quality animal care around the world.
In 2016, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International changed its name to AAALAC International. In addition, a new governance structure was approved by the Board of Trustees. The Bylaws were revised to reflect oversight of the Association by a Board of Directors that is elected by Member Organization Delegates, thereby retiring the former Executive and Board of Trustees governance structure.
AAALAC International's mission to promote high standards of animal care, use, and well-being and enhance life sciences, research, and education through the accreditation process is widely accepted by the scientific community and granting agencies. Today, more than 980 programs worldwide are accredited by AAALAC International. These include academic institutions, commercial organizations, government agencies, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations.
Attainment of accreditation demonstrates that an institution's animal care and use program maintains a standard of excellence beyond the minimums required by law. Accreditation also demonstrates an institution's accountability and its efforts to promote sound ethical practices.
For more than 50 years, AAALAC International has nurtured a partnership with the scientific community to promote standards of animal care and use. AAALAC International accredited organizations continue to grow. The founders of AAALAC International had the keen insight to develop a conceptual framework that is still appropriate today. The philosophies and ideals incorporated into its foundation provides AAALAC International with a base from which to grow to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Today, more than 60 organizations have a voice in AAALAC International. The "Silver Anniversary Chronicle," a more detailed documentation of AAALAC History (1965-1990), is available from the AAALAC International office upon request.