Animal Care committee formed

An Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) has been established at the university after years of discussion. The committee will work to review and approve any potential activities or experiments involving animals.

Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the USI-ACUC Rex Strange said although nobody is currently involved in animal testing, the committee was formed to act as a safeguard for both the animals and university.

He said a law pertaining to the 1966 Animal Welfare Act was “very specific on certain vertebrate animals, mainly mammals, and birds.”

“We have never had anyone who has really been working with those types of animals (vertebrates) before, and still today we have one person who may work with birds in the future, but we don’t have to follow any guidelines at the moment because we are not using anything that is actually regulated,” Strange said.

Strange said that once the university starts using animals that are regulated, they would be required by law to have a registered IACUC.

“This really focuses on live animals that are kept and used at the university,” he said. “We will focus on the research aspect, animals can be brought into a course for demonstration purposes. Now if the animal was going to be euthanized or something like that, then our committee definitely needs to have some jurisdiction or oversight of that.”

He said the ethical use of animals in research and science would be the ultimate goal of USI-ACUC.

“If someone at this university was using university resources etcetera to use the animals that are regulated and they are misusing those animals, there is a potential lawsuit. We will protect

the animals, but we also need to protect the university,” he said.

Strange said on top of being a safeguard, the USI-ACUC is depending on funding from government agencies.

“It’s hard to do science on the cheap. If the researchers are receiving money from the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH), they require an IACUC for any vertebrate animal,” he said. “Right now nobody has applied for those types of funds to do work with animals. Once someone does, we will have to have an IACUC ready for them.”

He said some researchers dependant on which journal they publish in will have to specify the use of animals and go through a review process.

“That would be where our committee comes in,” he said.

Strange said it will allow researchers to have additional funding.

“It allows them to publish their findings, it maintains at the same time, we have a vested interest in not having people mistreating animals,” he said. “That reflects badly on us as educators, scientists and us as citizens.”

The committee is still in a beginning stage, Strange said, however, there are a number of limited animals currently on campus.

“Snakes and lizards basically and the person taking care of those animals will have to go through this IACUC once we formalize,” he said.

Strange said no one at USI is currently involved with animal testing. He said, historically, faculty members have kept native fish in aquaria to observe their behavior and others have caught and banded birds, but the animals were released afterward.  

“We are not to stop research or stop the abuse of animals in educational environments whatsoever, but we are here to maintain and get some sensibility as far as the ethical treatment of animals,” Strange said. “Obviously animals do get used in research, there is a misconception by some people that we are heavily vested in animal research at USI, and we are not, very minimal, most of our work with animals has been basically out in the woods, animals in their natural habitat.”

He said both psychology and biomedical engineering departments have expressed interest, but that further discussion needs to take place before the details are worked out.

“Something that is brought on campus for research, and will be housed here for more than a night, we definitely need to have something in place for that,” he said.

Emily Lynn, the grant administrator of the office of sponsored projects and research administration (OSPRA) said since USI has not had an IACUC, students, and faculty have been limited to working with animals not regulated by the USDA and the Animal Welfare Act.  

“Interest in the establishment of an IACUC at USI has been expressed by a number of faculties who would like to expand their animal research opportunities,” she said. “This will allow faculty to expand their research in ways that have not been viable and to serve as a vehicle for exposing students to ethical and humane animal research.”

She said that she is not aware of any current additional funds available to faculty involved in research with animals.

“However, having an IACUC allows our faculty to pursue funding from external grant agencies that will include research with animals,” Lynn said. “Funding agencies cannot award funding to institutions who do not have adequate regulatory oversight for animal research, thus an IACUC is a must.”