Federal laws and regulations are only part of the management of the facilities, animal environment and management, personnel qualifications and training, veterinary medical care key to the careful and proper conduct of animal research at UW–Madison.
At UW–Madison, as at all research universities making use of federal funding for animal research, an institutional official (IO) takes responsibility for the proper composition and functioning of the organization’s animal program and for compliance with all laws and Public Health Service policy. The IO for UW–Madison is the associate vice chancellor for research policy.
Primary oversight of animal research on our campus is the responsibility of institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs). Each committee includes at least one scientist with expertise in experiment design, at least one veterinarian experienced in care of research animals, and at least one public member — someone not employed by UW–Madison. An IACUC reviews and approves each proposed animal program before it can begin, and performs comprehensive reviews of the organization’s animal program twice a year. Their word is final. Committee disapproval of protocols or findings of program deficiencies cannot be overruled by anyone. We have four IACUCs covering different schools, colleges and research centers on campus. Altogether, they have 56 voting members and 16 voting alternates. About 40 percent of those members are UW–Madison faculty, 25 percent hold staff appointments, 25 percent are veterinarians, and 10 percent are unaffiliated members. Each IACUC reviews its animal research program twice a year.
We also have an All Campus Animal Planning and Advisory Committee — composed of the chairs of each IACUC, the chief campus veterinarian and the director of our Research Animal Resources Center (RARC) — that sets campus-wide animal program policy.
The RARC is the administrative and research support center responsible for ensuring appropriate management of the animal program. RARC staff provide training, program monitoring, veterinary care, protocol review support and access to the our campus-wide animal use policies.
Like program and protocol review, oversight occurs at many levels.
USDA veterinary inspectors always examine compliance with federal laws. AAALAC’s three-year site visits include evaluation of compliance with the association’s standards. At UW–Madison, a broad team of individuals monitor compliance with laws and regulations, AAALAC standards and our own, additional procedures, specifications and ideals.
Ongoing research occurs in the daily presence of animal care staff, research staff, veterinarians and veterinary technicians. IACUC committee members take on the same role during semiannual facility inspections. All have access to approved animal care and use protocols. Systems are in place so that each member of an animal program team can ask questions or report concerns at any time. There are three program staff members who perform random or targeted spot-checks of animal studies and animal facilities across campus.
Any problems must be addressed and corrected — and often self-reported to federal agencies — swiftly by staff, IACUCs and university administration.