Animal Subjects FAQ

No research on the campus involves the testing of cosmetics.

Neither dogs nor cats are used at this campus. The majority of animals involved in research studies or teaching at UMass-Amherst are fish and healthy, purpose-bred laboratory rodents. Rodents are generally purchased from pre-approved vendors. Those interested in finding out more about the regulations surrounding the use of dogs and cats in research, and how their use is monitored by the USDA, can find more information on the USDA website or can email the USDA at

The process for reporting a concern, and the institution’s procedure for investigating reports of concerns, is as follows:

  1. A list of campus individuals who can be contacted in the event of a concern about animal welfare is provided to all new animal users at the basic IACUC New User Training and new users are informed of protections afforded by Massachusetts "Whistle Blower" statutes. The instructor informs the new user that they can report a concern to anyone on the list and the report will be acted upon promptly.
  2. Reporting Animal Welfare Concerns
  3. The person receiving the complaint records a description of the problem and contact information from the person reporting the issue. If the person reporting the issue wishes to remain anonymous this is respected.
  4. The person receiving the complaint discusses it with the IACUC Chair (or Associate Chair in the Chair’s absence) on the same day and the Chair appoints an IACUC investigator to investigate the complaint.
  5. The investigator checks on the situation and reports his/her findings to the IACUC Chair within 24 hours.
  6. If the investigator finds no basis for the complaint the IACUC Chair communicates this finding to the person lodging the complaint if the person has provided contact information.
  7. If the investigator finds there is a basis for the complaint the IACUC Chair contacts the responsible person with a plan to correct the deficiency promptly.
  8. If the situation poses an immediate threat to the health or safety of the animals and the responsible person is not cooperative, the Chair convenes a special IACUC meeting with quorum to discuss the issue and decide on actions to be taken to remedy the problem. In the event the IACUC finds serious animal welfare issues that must be addressed immediately the IACUC may vote to suspend the activity involving animals pending resolution of the problem.

OLAW, USDA, and Federal and/or private funding agencies are notified, as required by federal law or agreements with funding agencies, of significant deficiencies and/or suspension, with a timetable for correction.

The animals are checked for health and well-being and fed and watered every day by Animal Care staff throughout the year, including weekends and holidays. The director observes all the animals at least once per week. Cleaning is performed on a schedule to provide the animals with the best possible environment and to comply with species-specific requirements of the federal animal welfare laws.

The committee meets every month to review animal use protocols and to discuss other aspects of the animal care and use program at the University. The committee may schedule additional meetings as needed. Sub-committees if the IACUC meet every six months to conduct semi-annual inspections of the animal facilities and animal use areas, and review the animal care and use program.

The use of laboratory animals is one of the most regulated uses of animals in the United States, and other countries as well. In the U.S., the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (PHS Policy) regulate the use of laboratory animals. Some states and U.S. cities also have animal welfare laws that govern the use of laboratory animals.

The AWA has been in effect since 1966, with several amendments to provide additional coverage for animal care and use. The AWA is enforced by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The AWA covers many of the common laboratory species. All institutions using AWA-covered animals must register with the USDA, and can be inspected at any time, without prior notification. The University renewed its registration with the USDA in 2020. 

The PHS Policy has been law since 1985, and is enforced by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The PHS Policy covers use of cold- and warm- blooded vertebrates used in NIH-funded research and the terms of the UMass Assurance with OLAW at NIH expands this oversight to all use of vertebrate animals in research and teaching at the University. The PHS Policy requires compliance with the guidelines and standards in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide). The PHS Policy covers training and research funded by NIH but most institutions apply its requirements and standards for all animal use at the institution. The institution must apply for, and if approved, maintain an Animal Welfare Assurance with OLAW. Documentation is mostly by correspondence on a regular basis, but site visits by OLAW are conducted periodically. The University renewed its NIH Animal Welfare Assurance in 2018.

Both laws include specifics about the housing, daily husbandry, veterinary care, emergency coverage, training of all personnel involved with the animals, and maintenance of physical facilities. Both require the active participation of the attending laboratory animal veterinarian and an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Animal Use policy at UMass Amherst applies standards required by these federal regulations equally to all vertebrate animal used for research and teaching.

Guidance on Clarification on the Roles of NIH Scientific Review Groups (SRG) and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) in Review of Vertebrate Animal Research has been published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts on September 1, 2010, NOT-OD-10-128 which includes the following:

Institutional Responsibilities

  • “An institution that elects to proceed according to “just-in-time” procedures for IACUC approval bears the responsibility for supporting the decisions of the IACUC”.
  • “Under no circumstances may an IACUC be pressured to approve a protocol or be overruled on its decision to withhold approval”.
  • “The PHS Policy requires that modifications required by the IACUC be submitted to the NIH with the verification of IACUC approval, and it is the responsibility of institutions to communicate any IACUC-imposed changes to NIH staff”.

Investigator Responsibilities

  • “It is incumbent upon investigators to be totally forthcoming and timely in conveying to the IACUC any modifications related to project scope and animal usage that may result from the NIH review and award processes”.
  • “Should an institution find that one of its investigators disregards his/her responsibilities, the institution may, for example, determine that all animal protocols from that investigator be subject to IACUC approval prior to allowing that investigator to submit an application”.

Essential information includes the following:

  • an overview of the animal use and an explanation of the reasons for and benefits from the use of animals in the proposed research
  • assurance that the proposed work does not duplicate previous research and that no alternative to the use of live animals is available
  • a list of species, strains or types of animals to be used; the source of the animals; the numbers needed
  • justifications for the species and numbers
  • description of specialized housing or care for the animals needed for the studies
  • detailed technical description of how the animals will be used, including any medications or materials administered to them 
  • anesthetics and analgesics that will be use
  • explanations if analgesics cannot be used (for a procedure during or after which the animals would normally be given analgesics) because of interference with the data collected during the study 
  • a clear description of the endpoints of the studies
  • descriptions of the euthanasia procedures in accordance with standards published by the American Veterinary Medical Association 
  • identification of personnel involved in the work and descriptions of their training and qualifications to use the animals

The University’s IACUC membership includes veterinarians, a non-affiliated member, non-scientists, compliance staff and scientists/faculty members from various departments who conduct research and teach.

Although the AWA and PHS Policy differ slightly in IACUC membership requirements, the core membership must include a veterinarian with experience and/or training in the care and use of laboratory animals with responsibility for the animals at the institution (the attending veterinarian), one community member, a practicing scientist experienced in research involving animals, and a non-scientist. There must be a minimum of five members on the committee. Members are appointed by the Chief Executive Officer of the institution or their designee. At UMass Amherst, the Chancellor has delegated the appointing authority for IACUC members to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement who also serves as the Institutional Official for oversight of animal use.

The laboratory animals live in quarters approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and the facilities are checked regularly for compliance with federal animal welfare laws.

There are facilities at six sites. Facilities are located close to the classrooms and laboratories where the animals are used to minimize transportation stress. The heating, ventilation, air conditioning, humidity, lighting and access by unauthorized personnel are carefully controlled to maintain the health of the colonies.

The Director of Animal Care and Campus Veterinarian have primary responsibility for the care of UMass animals, and the members of the federally mandated Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee also contribute substantially to the oversight of the care and use of the laboratory animals. Those with questions about laboratory animals or animal use in research and teaching at UMass Amherst can contact the Director for Animal Care at (413) 545-5268 or (413) 992-8295 (after hours or emergencies).

Alternatives to the use of whole living animals are being developed constantly, and significant progress has been made in this area over the past 20 years. Animal cell culture lines and computer programs have been substituted in some areas of research and their use has contributed to the decrease in the use of live animals.

However, whole animals continue to be required in many areas of research where the complicated, multiple- system interactions and effects mentioned above must be assessed.

For the studies and classes where live animals are used, the faculty requesting these uses explain that the whole organism must be used in order to study the interaction of different physiological processes in living systems.

Examples of fields of study where use of live animals is crucial include, but are not limited to, conservation research in field settings, neuroscience, behavior, immunology, and nutrition. In all cases, justification for the use of the animals must be provided in writing as part of an animal use protocol. Each protocol must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) before the animal use begins.