Animal Research Ethics
All research, teaching or testing using animals conducted by staff or students affiliated with the University of Alberta, or involving University resources/ facilities, must be reviewed and approved by one of the University’s Animal Care and Use Committees (ACUC) before the research starts.
The use of animals for research, teaching and testing is a privilege, one that comes with important responsibilities:
to ensure that good science is done;
to meet our ethical responsibilities for ensuring that every animal is treated humanely and not subjected to unnecessary pain or distress, and
to work within the accepted standards for experimental animal care and use.
Canadian standards for experimental animal care and use are defined in the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) and compliance is monitored through its assessment program. The University of Alberta maintains a CCAC Certificate of Good Animal Practice, indicating that the institutional animal care and use program meets the national standards set by the CCAC.
The use of animals in research, teaching, and testing is acceptable ONLY if it promises to contribute to understanding of fundamental biological principles, or to the development of knowledge that can reasonably be expected to benefit humans or animals.
Animals should be used only if the researcher's best efforts to find an alternative have been explored. Continued/ous sharing of knowledge, review of the literature, and adherence to the Russell-Burch "3R" tenet of "Replacement, Reduction and Refinement" are also required (see the Three Rs microsite). Those using animals should employ the most humane methods on the smallest number of appropriate animals required to obtain valid information. In order to work with animals, researchers, students and staff must complete appropriate animal user training at the University or demonstrate that they have obtained equivalent training elsewhere.
Using a peer review process and applying the Three Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) tenet, the ACUCs ensure that individual animal research, teaching and testing protocols meet or exceed current standards established by CCAC.
Ethics approval is valid for up to one year at a time and must be maintained for the duration of the activities involving animal use through an annual review process. All animal use conducted in University facilities is overseen and supported by veterinarian and animal care staff. When animal research occurs off-campus, for instance wildlife studies or work at other institutions, there is still veterinary oversight and follow-up. Changes to a study that might affect animal welfare must be approved by the ACUC before they are implemented. Additionally, animal use protocols are subject to Post-Approval Monitoring (PAM) to ensure the well-being and humane care and use of all animals and compliance with the national standards.
The University Animal Policy and Welfare Committee (UAPWC) oversees and coordinates the work of the individual ACUCs. It proposes University policies and procedures for approval by General Faculties Council and the Board of Governors to ensure institutional standards for animal care and use meet or exceed CCAC guidelines.
The Animal Care and Use Committees administered by the University of Alberta through the Research Ethics Office are described in detail here.