If you're a researcher, you know that there are many regulations and requirements surrounding the use of animals in research. So at first glance, it may seem that participating in AAALAC's voluntary accreditation program is perhaps unnecessary—or just one more hurdle standing between you and your work.
We've created this section to address these concerns, and provide you with some information on the purpose and value of AAALAC International accreditation. Please share this resource with your colleagues. And if you have specific questions regarding AAALAC accreditation at your institution, you may contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AAALAC is not a regulatory agency. We are a voluntary, peer-review accreditation program. Our site visitors are not inspectors—they are peer-reviewers, there to provide a collegial evaluation to verify that your institution is meeting AAALAC International standards. The entire process is completely confidential and not subject to FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act). Our goal is to work with the scientific community to promote high quality animal care and good science.
Eliminating variables. As you well know, reliable research results depend on eliminating extraneous variables. AAALAC accreditation helps to minimize the "animal variable" by encouraging your institution to maintain consistent, high standards for animal care and use. The accreditation process engages scientists, veterinarians, managers and administrators in an independent, rigorous assessment of your institution's animal care and use program. This helps ensure that the animals you use in your studies are healthy, well cared for, and free from undue stress—all of which translates into better, more consistent research outcomes.
Encouraging performance-based oversight. AAALAC's standards are "performance-based," meaning we look at the larger picture of what's trying to be accomplished and the end result, as opposed to enforcing a series of narrow, unyielding "engineering" requirements. And we look to see that your IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee)/Ethics Committee/Animal Care Committee is taking a similar approach when they review protocols. This gives you an opportunity to explain and justify your methodology and anticipated outcomes, instead of being forced to follow prescribed approaches.
Enhancing funding opportunities. Many private biomedical organizations strongly recommend that grantees be supported by AAALAC-accredited animal programs. Government agencies also regard AAALAC accreditation as evidence of a commitment to excellence. Accreditation ensures private and public funding sources that animal use will be justified and humane, and can have a favorable impact on your proposal's review.
The accreditation process includes an extensive institutional self-study during which a comprehensive document called a “Program Description” is created. The Program Description, which describes all aspects of animal care and use at your institution, is submitted to AAALAC.
Next, an AAALAC team visits your facilities. The site visit team is comprised of at least one member of AAALAC's Council on Accreditation and one or more AAALAC ad hoc consultants, many of whom are bench scientists. During their review, the team assesses your program to verify that it's upholding the principles outlined in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and other appropriate Reference Resources. The team’s report, which includes commendations and recommendations, is then reviewed and deliberated on by AAALAC's Council on Accreditation and your accreditation status is determined. If deficiencies are found, they are outlined in a letter and your institution is given a period of time to address them. After the deficiencies are corrected, accreditation is awarded. This entire process is completely confidential, allowing frank and open dialogue between your institution and AAALAC International.
(A detailed description of the AAALAC process is posted here.)
The meaning of animal care and use "program." AAALAC evaluates your institution's entire animal care and use program, which includes much more than just animal facilities and veterinary care. AAALAC defines a program as encompassing the following:
(Note: All of these program areas are covered in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.)
The Institutional Official. The "Institutional Official" (IO) is the person designated to have final administrative authority over the animal care and use program. This person must have the authority to allocate institutional resources as needed and approve any changes recommended by the IACUC/Ethics Committee/OB.
The IACUC/Ethics Committee/Animal Care Committee. The "IACUC/OB" oversees the animal care and use program and reports to the Institutional Official on (at least) a semiannual basis. The Committee is responsible for:
Note: Your IACUC/OB may also have institution-specific policies or other requirements not otherwise specified in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals or in applicable animal welfare regulations.
The Attending Veterinarian/Named Veterinarian. The Attending Veterinarian/Named Veterinarian (AV/NV) is responsible for overseeing the entire veterinary care program which, depending on the size of your institution, may include coordinating the work of several other veterinarians. The AV/NV may be employed full-time, part-time, or as a consultant, and has sufficient authority to ensure adequate veterinary care for all of the animals used at your institution.
Training requirements. If you're going to be working with animals—for example, surgery or other experimental procedures—there are likely to be some training requirements you must meet. If you have not been informed of these requirements, ask the veterinarian who will be overseeing the animals in your study about them.
Regulations and Resources. For a list of animal research regulations and resources from around the world, click here.
You can assist AAALAC International in evaluating animal care and use programs by becoming an AAALAC ad hoc Consultant/Specialist. Click here to apply ...
Note: These organizations are also "Member Organizations" of AAALAC International.
The American Physiological Society
Animal Care and Experimentation Committee
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)
Society for Neuroscience
Committee on Animals in Research
Society of Toxicology
Animals in Research