FAQs

Questions and Answers Regarding the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

Are any animals used at UMass for testing cosmetics?

Are dogs and cats used? What species are used?

How do I report a concern about the welfare of animal(s) used for research and/or teaching at UMass-Amherst?

How often are the animals checked in their cages, watered and fed, and cleaned?

How often does the IACUC meet?

What are the laws that regulate the care and use of laboratory animals?

What are the roles of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in Review of NIH Vertebrate Animal Research? (2010 NIH Guidance)

What information must be included in an animal use protocol reviewed by the IACUC?

What is the composition of the UMass-Amherst IACUC?

Where do the laboratory animals live on the campus?

Who are the members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and who appoints these individuals?

Who is responsible for the care of the animals?

Whom should I contact if I have more questions about the animals used for research and teaching?

Why aren't alternatives, like cell culture or computer models, used instead of animals?

Why must animals be used for research studies and teaching?

Are any animals used at UMass for testing cosmetics?

No research on the campus involves the testing of cosmetics.

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Are dogs and cats used? What species are used?

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 ace@aphis.usda.gov.

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How do I report a concern about the welfare of animal(s) used for research and/or teaching at UMass-Amherst?

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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The investigator checks on the situation and reports his/her findings to the IACUC Chair within 24 hours.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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How often are the animals checked in their cages, watered and fed, and cleaned?

The animals are checked for health and well-being and fed and watered every day throughout the year, including weekends and holidays, by Animal Care staff. 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.

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How often does the IACUC meet?

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.

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What are the laws that regulate the care and use of laboratory animals?

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 US, 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 US 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 will be inspected at any time, without prior notification. The University renewed its registration with the USDA in 2008. 

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 2010.

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 the University of Massachusetts Amherst applies standards required by these federal regulations equally to all vertebrate animal used for research and teaching.

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What are the roles of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in Review of NIH Vertebrate Animal Research? (2010 NIH Guidance)

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:

From NOT-OD-10-028 - 

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”.

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What information must be included in an animal use protocol reviewed by the IACUC?

Essential information includes 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 used; 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; and, identification of personnel involved in the work and descriptions of their training and qualifications to use the animals.

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What is the composition of the UMass-Amherst IACUC?

The University's IACUC membership includes three veterinarians (a local practitioner with research and laboratory animal care experience, a large animal veterinarian and the Campus Attending Veterinarian), one non-affiliated member from the local community, non-scientists, the Director of Animal Care, the Director of Laboratory Safety in Environmental Health and Safety, the Research Compliance Coordinator and scientists/faculty members who conduct research and teach.

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Where do the laboratory animals live on the campus?

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.

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Who are the members of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and who appoints these individuals?

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 person not affiliated with the institution who represents the community, 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 by someone designated by the CEO to appoint members.  At the University of Massachusetts Amherst appointing authority for IACUC members has been delegated by the Chancellor to the Institutional Official for oversight of animal use, the Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement.

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Who is responsible for the care of the animals?

The Director of Animal Care and Campus Veterinarian are primarily responsible 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. (Please see above for the information about this committee.)   Those with questions about the laboratory animals at UMass- Amherst are encouraged to contact the Animal Care Services office at (413) 545-0668  for assistance.

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Whom should I contact if I have more questions about the animals used for research and teaching?

Contact the Director of Animal Care at (413) 545-0668.    

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Why aren't alternatives, like cell culture or computer models, used instead of animals?

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.

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Why must animals be used for research studies and teaching?

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 before the animal use begins.

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