raccoon looking at camera

The requirements of the Animal Welfare Act are set forth under the Regulations and Standards in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These requirements are found in Title 9 CFR, Chapter 1, Subchapter A - Animal Welfare, Parts 1, 2, and 3.

The requirements for field studies are set forth in Parts 1 and 2 of 9 CFR and are indicated below. Section numbers are provided for reference to the actual wording of each requirement.

“Animal” is generally defined as any warm-blooded animal used for research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition purposes, or as a pet. Excluded from this definition are birds, rats of the genus Rattus and mice of the genus Mus bred for use in research, horses not used for research purposes, and other farm animals used for food, fiber, or production purposes. This term includes all dogs used for hunting, security or breeding purposes. (Section 1.1)

“Field study” means any study conducted on free-living wild animals in their natural habitat, which does not involve an invasive procedure, and which does not harm or materially alter the behavior of the animals under study." (Section 1.1)

Section 2.31 (c)(2) requires the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to: "Inspect, at least once every six months, all of the research facility`s animal facilities, including animal study areas, using Title 9, Chapter 1, Subchapter A - Animal Welfare, as a basis for evaluation; Provided, however, That animal areas containing free-living wild animals in their natural habitat need not be included in such inspection:"

Section 2.31 (c)(6) and (7) requires the IACUC to review and approve, or make modifications to, proposed and ongoing activities related to the care and use of animals as specified in section 2.31(d).

Section 2.31(d) requires the IACUC to review the activities involving animals to determine that the proposed activities, or proposed significant changes in ongoing activities, are in accordance with regulations. There is a proviso that field studies as defined in Part 1 are exempt from this requirement. Should the activity not meet the definition of field study it is NOT exempt from this requirement.

Section 2.31(d)(ix) requires that activities that involve surgery must include appropriate provision for pre-operative and post-operative care of the animals in accordance with established veterinary medical and nursing practices. There is a proviso that “operative procedures conducted at field sites need not be performed in dedicated facilities but must be performed using aseptic procedures.”

American Fisheries Society.

These guidelines provide general recommendations on field and laboratory activities, such as sampling, holding, and handling fishes; information on regulations and permits; and advice concerning ethical questions, such as perceptions of pain or discomfort that may be experienced by experimental subjects.

Animal Ethics Infolink.

Strategies from the New South Wales, Australia Animal Research Review Panel on issues such as trapping, collection of voucher specimens, studies involving feral animals, and ways in which the 3Rs can be applied in field studies.

National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research.

NC3Rs provides a section on wildlife research on their information portal, including links to references and relevant legislation.

This 2014 1-hour webinar from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health highlights approaches and resources that will assist institutions in conducting sound reviews of projects involving wild animals. It is presented by Dr. Robert Sikes, who has been a member of the Animal Care and Use Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists [ASM] since 1997 and has chaired that committee since 2008.