Prepare a report to serve as an informational resource to assist researchers, laboratory animal medicine veterinarians, and IACUC members in the interpretation and implementation of current standards of practice and promote the training of animal care specialists in this area.
The ILAR Committee on Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Neuroscience and Behavioral Research (hereafter referred to as the authoring committee) hosted a public workshop on February 27, 2002, to obtain input from leaders in the fields of neuroscience research, behavioral research, and laboratory animal medicine. Following this workshop, the committee met three times during a nine-month period to review the literature, pertinent regulatory documents, and the many references available on the care and use of laboratory animals. After deliberating on responsible use developments and best use practices, the committee drafted this report.
This report provides current information on the care and use of laboratory animals in neuroscience and behavioral research and is aimed at ensuring high-quality, humane care for laboratory animals. Because neuroscience and behavioral research is so diverse, and unique and ambiguous situations continue to arise as science advances, it is impossible for this report to provide specific guidance for every potential research situation. Further, recognizing that every potential research situation cannot be anticipated, there are few regulations or guidelines governing laboratory animal care and use that do not end with the caveat “unless a deviation is justified for scientific reasons and approved by the IACUC.” To provide such flexibility in the regulations and guidelines requires the application of professional judgment when applying these regulations and guidelines to each research situation. Often the decisions that must be made are not simple, and reaching effective solutions requires the collective judgment and cooperation of the principal investigator, veterinarian, and IACUC. Therefore, this report emphasizes that developing and evaluating an animal-use protocol requires a decision-making process, as many situations do not lend themselves to simple application of regulations and guidelines to reach a yes or no decision.
It is widely held that animal-welfare regulations and guidelines are inflexible and constitute a hindrance to the conduct of high-quality research. One aim of the authoring committee was to highlight the flexibility and promote the use of professional judgment, performance standards, and the decision-making process in evaluating animal protocols, rather than indicating engineering standards. It is the responsibility of institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs), veterinarians, and researchers to apply creativity and flexibility to balance the needs of high-quality research and humane treatment of animals. In that light, as is the case with other regulatory and guidance documents, the guidelines suggested should not be viewed as laws meant to restrict biomedical research. Rather, they should be interpreted with each unique situation. The guidelines contained in this report are deliberately general. They should be interpreted as a flexible