Information Resources for Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees 1985-1999 *************************

Attending Veterinarian

Attending Veterinarian and Adequate Veterinary Care

9 CFR, Subchapter A, Animal Welfare, §2.32
This document is available at

(a) Each research facility shall have an attending veterinarian who shall provide adequate veterinary care to its animals in compliance with this section:

(1) Each research facility shall employ an attending veterinarian under formal arrangements. In the case of a part-time attending veterinarian or consultant arrangements, the formal arrangements shall include a written program of veterinary care and regularly scheduled visits to the research facility;

(2) Each research facility shall assure that the attending veterinarian has appropriate authority to ensure the provision of adequate veterinary care and to oversee the adequacy of other aspects of animal care and use; and

(3) The attending veterinarian shall be a voting member of the IACUC; Provided, however, That a research facility with more than one Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) may appoint to the IACUC another DVM with delegated program responsibility for activities involving animals at the research facility.

(b) Each research facility shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include:

(1) The availability of appropriate facilities, personnel, equipment, and services to comply with the provisions of this subchapter;

(2) The use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend, and holiday care;

(3) Daily observation of all animals to assess their health and well-being; Provided, however, That daily observation of animals may be accomplished by someone other than the attending veterinarian; and Provided, further, That a mechanism of direct and frequent communication is required so that timely and accurate information on problems of animal health, behavior, and well-being is conveyed to the attending veterinarian;

(4) Guidance to principal investigators and other personnel involved in the care and use of animals regarding handling, immobilization, anesthesia, analgesia, tranquilization, and euthanasia; and

(5) Adequate pre-procedural and post-procedural care in accordance with current established veterinary medical and nursing procedures.

Ensuring Adequate Veterinary Care: Roles and Responsibilities of Facility Owners and Attending Veterinarians

March 1999
USDA, APHIS, Animal Care

Under the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires that all persons who use animals in research or for exhibition, sell them at the wholesale level, or transport them in commerce provide these animals with adequate veterinary care and animal husbandry. Toward this end, APHIS requires the owner of each licensed and registered facility to establish a formal program of veterinary care. Facility owners must also employ an attending veterinarian to oversee the care afforded the animals.

Essential Components of a Veterinary Care Program

APHIS personnel assess each facility's veterinary care program to determine whether it contains the following elements:

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)

Additional Information

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:

Animal Care
Unit 84
4700 River Road
Riverdale, MD 20737
Telephone: (301) 734-7833

Web page:

Veterinary Care Checklist

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.

____ Vaccinations

____ 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:

Veterinary Medical Care

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:

Preventive medicine.
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.

Adequate Veterinary Care

Public Position Statement of
The American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine

This document is available at

I. Introduction

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

B. Handling and Restraint; Anesthetics, Analgesics and Tranquilizer Drugs; and Methods of Euthanasia

C. Surgical and Postsurgical Care

D. Animal Well-Being

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

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.

IV. Conclusions

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.

Useful World Wide Web Sites


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