The Role of the Attending Veterinarian
The attending veterinarian is responsible for reviewing the facility's veterinary care program at least once a year. Facilities must employ their veterinarians under the following terms:
Specifics to Check For During a Veterinary Care Program Review
When conducting a review of a facility's veterinary care program, the attending veterinarian should check for vaccinations, parasite-control programs, euthanasia methods, exercise programs for dogs, environmental enrichment programs for primates, and several other specific provisions. The checklist on this tech note provides a detailed list of these provisions for use in evaluating specific veterinary care programs. (See Veterinary Care Checklist following this article)
For more information, or if you have other questions about the veterinary care requirements under the Animal Welfare Act, contact your local APHIS Animal Care inspector or field veterinary medical officer, or:
This checklist should be used when reviewing a facility's veterinary care program and kept on file at the facility for review by APHIS personnel.
Facility Name: __________________________________________
Date of Visit: __________________________________________
Review each item below with the facility owner. Place an "x" next to each item discussed and "N/A" next to those items that are not applicable.
____ Parasite control program
____ Emergency care
____ Euthanasia methods
____ Nutritive value of diets
____ Handling of biologics and drugs
____ Pest control and product safety
____ Quarantine procedures
____ Exercise program (dogs only)
____ Environmental enrichment (primates only)
____ Water quality (marine mammals only)
____ Capture and restraint methods (wild or exotic animals only)
____ General observations
____ Overall facility condition
____ General animal husbandry practices
Comments and recommendations on overall health of animals and effectiveness of veterinary care program:
Signature of Attending Veterinarian:
Excerpted from the Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, p. 56.
Veterinary medical care is an essential part of an animal care and use program. Adequate veterinary care consists of effective programs for:
Surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, and control of disease, including zoonosis control.
Management of protocol-associated disease, disability, or other sequelae.
Anesthesia and analgesia.
Surgery and postsurgical care.
Assessment of animal well-being.
A veterinary-care program is the responsibility of the attending veterinarian, who is certified or has training or experience in laboratory animal science and medicine or in the care of the species being used. Some aspects of the veterinary-care program can be conducted by persons other than a veterinarian, but a mechanism for direct and frequent communication should be established to ensure that timely and accurate information is conveyed to the veterinarian on problems associated with animal health, behavior, and well-being. The veterinarian must provide guidance to investigators and all personnel involved in the care and use of animals to ensure appropriate handling, immobilization, sedation, analgesia, anesthesia, and euthanasia. The attending veterinarian must provide guidance or oversight to surgery programs and oversight of postsurgical care.
This document is available at http://www.aclam.org/Content/files/files/Public/Active/position_adeqvetcare.pdf
These guidelines were prepared by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) to assist in the formulation and evaluation of programs of veterinary care for laboratory animals. The professional judgement of a trained and experienced veterinarian is essential in the application of these guidelines to specific institutional settings.
The ACLAM recognizes that both regulatory and science sponsoring agencies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Public Health Service of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (PHS/DHHS), through their respective regulations and policies, support the concept of "adequate veterinary care" within their own range of interest and specialization. This document, written by ACLAM, an organization comprised of veterinarians certified in the specialty of laboratory animal medicine, is a detailed description of adequate veterinary care and is intended to apply to animals used, or intended for use, in research, teaching or testing.
II. ACLAM Position On Adequate Veterinary Care
The institutional veterinarian must be qualified by virtue of appropriate postgraduate training or experience in laboratory animal science and medicine. Such training and experience are indicated by certification by ACLAM and/or participation in laboratory animal medicine continuing education activities of ACLAM and the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners. The continuing education of the veterinarian is an essential component of maintaining competence.
The extent of the veterinary care program will depend on several factors, such as: (1) the number of animals, (2) the species used and (3) the nature of the experimentation conducted. Large units may need several veterinarians to fulfill the program's requirements. One veterinarian may be sufficient in moderately sized units, and a part-time or consulting veterinarian may be acceptable in small units.
However, in all cases, formal arrangements for the provision of veterinary care must be made. Consulting veterinarians must make regularly scheduled visits (frequency based on need), and arrangements must be made to assure that veterinary services are readily available at all other times to meet either routine or emergency needs.
The veterinarian responsible for supporting an institutional animal care and use program must have appropriate authority to execute the duties inherent in assuring the adequacy of veterinary care and overseeing other aspects of animal care and use to ensure that the program meets applicable standards. The veterinarian must be fully knowledgeable concerning the current and proposed use of animals in the institutional research, testing and teaching programs.
At least one veterinarian must be a full member of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and actively involved in the review of all protocols and projects, and in the inspection of facilities and review of institutional programs involving animals in research, testing and teaching. For the veterinary care program to be judged "adequate", there is a continuing institutional responsibility to foster and support enhancement of the program through the identification and adoption of techniques, procedures and policies that improve laboratory animal health and well-being.
ACLAM endorses the American Veterinary Medical Association Principles of Veterinary Ethics and the specific guidelines regarding veterinarians employed by other than veterinary medical organizations. Veterinarians must be especially vigilant in ensuring that their professional veterinary judgments are neither influenced nor controlled by institutional interests to the detriment of the laboratory animals.
The provision of adequate veterinary care involves the following primary areas of responsibility:
A. Disease Detection and Surveillance, Prevention, Diagnosis, Treatment and Resolution
1. The isolation, quarantine and stabilization programs for newly arrived animals are necessary to provide time to assess their health status, allow them to recover from the stress of shipment and an opportunity to adapt to their new environment. The extent of these programs depends on several factors, including species and source of the animals as well as their intended use. For some animals, such as rodents obtained from reliable sources for which health status is known, visual inspection on arrival may suffice. For species such as nonhuman primates, farm animals, wild animals, random source dogs and cats, and non-specific pathogen free rabbits and rodents, appropriate quarantine and isolation procedures must be employed.
2. Preventive medicine programs such as vaccinations, ecto- and endoparasite treatments and other disease control measures should be initiated according to currently acceptable veterinary medical practices appropriate to the particular species and source. Only animals of defined health status should be used in research and testing unless a specific, naturally occurring or induced disease state is being studied. Systems should be established to protect animals within the institution from exposure to diseases. Transgenic and mutant animals may be particularly susceptible to diseases and may require special protection to ensure their health. Systems to prevent spread of disease may include facility design features, containment/isolation equipment, and use of standard operating procedures. Training of animal care and research staff is essential to prevent spread of animal diseases.
3. Daily observation of all animals by a person or persons qualified to verify their well-being is required. It is not necessary for a veterinarian to personally make this assessment each day. However, at a minimum, a trained paraprofessional or technician must observe each animal every day and there must be a timely and accurate method for conveying information regarding animal health, behavior and well-being to the veterinarian.
4. Disease surveillance is a major
responsibility of the veterinarian and should include routine
monitoring of colony animals for the presence of parasitic, bacterial
and viral agents that may cause overt or inapparent disease.
Additionally, cells, tissues, fluids, and transplantable tumors
that are to be used in animals should be monitored for infectious
or parasitic agents that may cause disease in animals. The type
and intensity of monitoring necessary will depend upon professional
veterinary judgement and the species, source, use and number
of animals housed and used in the facility.
5. Diagnostic laboratory services must be available and used as appropriate. Laboratory services should include necropsy, histopathology, microbiology, clinical pathology, serology, and parasitology as well as other routine or specialized laboratory procedures, as needed. It is not necessary that all of these services be available within the animal facility if other laboratories with appropriate capabilities are available and used.
6. Animals with infectious disease must be isolated from others by placing them in isolation units or separate rooms appropriate for the containment of the agents of concern. In certain circumstances, when an entire group of animals is known or thought to be exposed or infected, it may be appropriate to keep the group intact during the time necessary for diagnosis and treatment, for taking other control measures, or for completion of a project.
7. The veterinarian must have authority to use appropriate treatment or control measures, including euthanasia if indicated, following diagnosis of an animal disease or injury. If possible, the veterinarian should discuss the situation with the principal investigator to determine a course of action consistent with experimental goals. However, if the principal investigator is not available, or if agreement cannot be reached, the veterinarian must have authority to act to protect the health and well-being of the institutional animal colony. The veterinarian's authority should be exercised with the concurrence of the IACUC and the Institutional Official.
B. Handling and Restraint; Anesthetics, Analgesics and Tranquilizer Drugs; and Methods of Euthanasia
Adequate veterinary care includes providing guidance to animal users and monitoring animal use to assure that appropriate methods of handling and restraint are being used and to ensure proper use of anesthetics, analgesics, tranquilizers, and methods of euthanasia. Written guidelines regarding the selection and use of anesthetics, analgesics and tranquilizing drugs and euthanasia practices for all species used must be provided and periodically reviewed by the veterinarian. Guidelines may be developed in-house or provided by specific references to the current veterinary literature. In addition, the veterinarian or trained paraprofessionals should provide formal or informal instruction in the proper use of such agents and euthanasia procedures.
The veterinarian must have the responsibility
and authority to assure that handling, restraint, anesthesia,
analgesia a euthanasia are administered as required to relieve
pain and such suffering in research animals, provided such intervention
is not specifically precluded in protocols reviewed and approved
by the IACUC. The veterinarian must exercise good professional
judgement to select the most appropriate pharmacologic agent(s)
and methods to relieve animal pain or distress in order to assure
humane treatment of animals, while avoiding undue interference
with goals of the experiment.
C. Surgical and Postsurgical Care
A program of adequate veterinary care includes the review and approval of all preoperative, surgical and postoperative procedures by a qualified veterinarian. The institution bears responsibility and must assure, through authority explicitly delegated to the veterinarian or to the IACUC, that only facilities with programs appropriate for the intended surgical procedures are utilized and that personnel are adequately trained and competent to perform the procedures. The veterinarian's inherent responsibility includes monitoring and providing recommendations concerning preoperative procedures, surgical techniques, the qualifications of institutional staff to perform surgery and the provision of postoperative care.
D. Animal Well-Being
Adequate veterinary care includes
responsibility for the promotion and monitoring of an animal's
well-being before, during and after experimentation or testing.
Animal well-being includes both physical and psychological aspects
of an animal's condition evaluated in terms of environmental
comfort, freedom from pain and distress and appropriate social
interactions, both with conspecifics and with man. The veterinarian
must have the authority and responsibility for making determinations
concerning animal well-being and assuring that animal well-being
is adequately monitored and promoted. The veterinarian must exercise
this responsibility in review of animal care and use protocols,
and must have the authority to remove an animal from an experiment
which is adversely affecting its well-being beyond a level reviewed
and approved by the IACUC.
The following examples represent how this responsibility can be met:
Ensuring the adequacy of the physical plant, caging and ancillary equipment.
Developing, implementing and monitoring sound animal care (husbandry) programs including such areas as sanitation, nutrition, genetics and breeding and vermin control.
Establishing an acclimatization program to adapt animals to either short-term or long term restraint procedures.
Improving and enriching an animal's environment to minimize the development of physical or behavioral abnormalities.
Providing appropriate opportunities for human-animal socialization and acclimatization to the research environment or procedures.
Performing periodic physical and clinical evaluations appropriate for the species and the experimental situation.
Providing pre-procedural and post-procedural care in accordance with current established veterinary procedures.
E. Appropriate Use of Animals in Research and Testing
The veterinarian must be involved in the review and approval
of all animal care and use in the institutional program. This
includes advising on the design and performance of experiments
using animals as related to model selection, collection and analysis
of samples and data from animals, and methods and techniques proposed
or in use. This responsibility is usually shared with investigators,
the IACUC, and external peer reviewers.
III. Related Concerns
Other areas of professional concern and responsibility for the veterinarian which may not strictly be part of the ACLAM description of adequate veterinary care include the following:
Participating in the development and administration of training for institutional staff in the care and use of laboratory animals.
Assisting institutional health officials to establish and monitor an occupational health program for all animal care workers and others who have substantial animal contact.
Monitoring for zoonotic diseases such as leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, rabies, Q-fever, B-virus infection, hantavirus infection, and lymphocytic choriomeningitis.
Advising on and monitoring of standards of hygiene among institutional staff involved with research animal care and use.
Advising on and monitoring of biohazard control policies and procedures as they apply to research animal care and use.
The Diplomates of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine believe that adequate veterinary care is an integral component of humane animal care and use in research, teaching and testing and further, that the state of animal well-being ensured through adequate veterinary care is essential to reliability of results from experimentation with animals. The essential components of adequate veterinary care programs for laboratory animals include: a) one or more qualified veterinarians and veterinary technical staff, b) authority to implement the veterinary care program and provide oversight of related aspects of the institutional animal care and use program, c) disease prevention, diagnosis and control programs, d) guidance for research staff in animal methods and techniques, and e) the promotion of animal well-being.
Banks, R. (1992). Commentary: the unwritten rules of the lam veterinarian--the IACUC experience. Lab Animal 21 (4): 37-40.
NAL call number: QL55.A1L33
Descriptors: veterinarians, committees.
Fisk, S.K. (1978). Don't overlook the lab animal veterinarian.
Lab Animal 7(2): 37.
NAL call number: QL55 A1L33
Abstract: What this professional can contribute to research projects.
Hannah, H.W. (1995). The limits of confidentiality: a veterinarian's
duty to report disease, cruelty, and theft. Journal of
the American Veterinary Medical Association 206 (9): 1336-1337.
NAL call number: 41.8 Am3
Descriptors: veterinarians, professional ethics, animal diseases, animal welfare, theft.
Pakes, S.P. (1990). Contributions of the laboratory animal
veterinarian to refining animal experiments in toxicology.
Fundamentals of Applied Toxicology 15(1): 17-24.
Descriptors: animal pain, psychology, measurement, research design, alternatives, trends, veterinarians, ACUC.
Quimby, F.W. (1995). The role of attending veterinarians
in laboratory animal welfare. Journal of the American Veterinary
Medical Association 206(4): 461-5.
NAL call number: 41.8 Am3
Descriptors: Animal Welfare Act, legislation, ethics, United States Department of Agriculture.
Scott, L.R. and P.D. Carter. (1996). The role of veterinarians on animal experimentation ethics committees. Australian Veterinary Journal 74 (4): 309-311.
NAL call number: 41.8 Au72
Descriptors: animal experiments, animal welfare, veterinarians, bioethics, committees, organizations.
Stark, D.M. (1989). The American veterinarians' role and
education in laboratory animal science. Animal Technology:
Journal of the Institute of Animal Technicians 40(3): 199-201.
NAL call number: QL55 I5
Descriptors: laboratory animals, training, animal husbandry, ACUC.
Van Hoosier, Jr, G.L. (1987). Role of the veterinarian.
Laboratory Animal Science 37(special issue): 101-102.
NAL call number: 410.9 P94
Descriptors: laboratory animals, animal welfare, ACUC.
University of Arizona Institutional
Animal Care and Use Committee, Authority of the Attending Veterinarian
An example of a short, concise policy.
University of Kansas-Lawrence, Responsibilities of the Animal Care Unit
This site lists various institutional policies and regulations.
University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Attending Veterinarian/Researcher Veterinarian
The purpose of this statement is to distinguish between the attending veterinarian and the veterinarian who is also a researcher and their respective responsibilities.
Veterinarians In Research Labs Address Conflicting Agendas
(The Scientist - Volume 11, No. 11, May 26, 1997)
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Updated June 18, 2014