Policies Governing Procedures for the Use of Animals in Research and Teaching at Western Washington University

Alternatives to Animal Use

Resources for Information on Alternatives to Animal Use


It is the policy of Western Washington University to provide the best possible care for animals used in research or teaching both for humane reasons and to foster high quality research. Accordingly, all animals owned, cared for, or handled by the University are covered by these policies. In every instance, Western's policies specifically meet or exceed accepted guidelines established by the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Standards for laboratory animal husbandry, veterinary care, and physical plant (animal facilities and environments) meet those described by the Animal Welfare Act administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The latest editions of these publications are available for inspection at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (Old Main 530).

All University employees and students are responsible for adherence to these policies. The University has established the Animal Care and Use Committee to monitor and enforce them.

Duties of the Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC)

All experiments or procedures involving live vertebrate animals must be approved in advance by the Animal Care and Use Committee. The appropriate forms are available at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which coordinates the activities of the Committee. Investigators should allow sufficient time for the Committee to review applications because no experimental procedures may be initiated without Committee clearance.

Specific responsibilities of the ACUC include the following:

  1. Review at least once every six months the University's program for humane care and use of animals.
  2. Inspect at least once every six months the University's animal facilities and ensure that proper external reviews are conducted as needed.
  3. Make recommendations and prepare reports regarding any aspect of the institution's animal program and facilities.
  4. Review the training procedures for university employees charged with the care and use of animals at the University.
  5. Review, approve, suggest modifications, or disapprove activities relating to the care and use of animals.
  6. Immediately recommend to the supervising senior administrator the suspension of inappropriate activity involving animals.
  7. Generate and maintain administrative procedures that will facilitate the discharge of these duties.

General Guidelines for the Use of Laboratory Animals

The educational and research use of laboratory and field animals is and has been of enormous value to our world, and for this reason, Western sponsors animal research. In our laboratories and classes, the educational goal or the research objective will determine the most appropriate use of animals. In all instances, the researcher and the ACUC will employ all available techniques for reducing pain and stress within the parameters of the experiment. The kinds and numbers shall be carefully matched with the specific aims of the research proposal. When more than one species can be satisfactorily used, a major consideration shall be to choose the lowest species on the phylogenetic scale and the least sentient. Higher order animals should be used only in situations especially well matched with a teaching or research aim.

A. Duties and Obligations of University Personnel

  1. Investigators, instructors, and colony supervisors have a moral obligation to abide by the humanitarian dictate that experimental animals are not to be subjected to unnecessary pain or distress.
  2. Use of live, vertebrate animals in the lab or in the field for research or teaching must be performed by, or under the appropriate supervision of, a qualified biological, behavioral, or medical scientist approved by the ACUC.
  3. The housing, care, and feeding of all animals must be supervised by a scientist approved by the ACUC.
  4. Investigators, instructors, and colony supervisors are responsible for instructing personnel in the humane care and use of animals.
  5. The principal investigator, instructor, and/or colony supervisor shall be responsible for the monitoring of animals for compliance with this policy.

B. Research and Instructional Use

  1. The research project or educational use should demonstrate a reasonable expectation of yielding fruitful results for the good of society or to advance knowledge.
  2. Experimental use of animals should be so designed that the anticipated results will justify the procedure.
  3. Statistical analysis, mathematical models or in vitro biological systems should be used when appropriate to complement or replace animal use and to assure that the numbers of animals used are matched with the aim(s) of the project.
  4. Animals used for demonstration, development of student skills, or other instructional objectives will be cared for consistent with the guidelines.

C. Treatment of Animals

  1. Post-Experimental Care
    Post experimental care of animals must minimize discomfort and the consequences of any disability resulting from the experiment in accordance with acceptable practices described by the Animal Welfare Act and The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
  2. Restraint
    Prolonged physical restraint procedures which result in distress or ill effects should be used only after alternative procedures have been considered and found inadequate.
  3. Behavioral Reinforcement
    Experiments studying behavioral responses to noxious stimuli such as shock, heat or cold stress should be designed to use a level of stimulus as low as possible consistent with obtaining reliable responses.
  4. Pain
    Operationally, pain can be defined as discomfort exceeding that associated with the administration of an anesthetic. The experiment should be conducted so as to avoid unnecessary suffering and injury to the animal. If pain or distress is a necessary concomitant of the experiment, these should be minimized both in intensity and duration. An animal that is observed to be in a state of severe pain which cannot be alleviated should be immediately euthanized, using a humane, acceptable method. In any study the degree of pain involved should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian or scientific importance of the problem.
  5. Surgery
    Multiple major surgical procedures at different times on an individual animal solely for the instruction of students or for the demonstration of established scientific knowledge cannot be justified.
  6. Anesthesia
    If the experiment or procedure is likely to cause greater discomfort than that attending anesthetization, anesthetic or analgesic drugs should be used until the experiment or procedure is ended. Exceptions to this guideline should be made only where the anesthetization would defeat the purpose of the experiment and data cannot be obtained by any other procedure.
  7. Environmental Enrichment
    Animals will be provided appropriate environmental enrichment in accordance with The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The program includes social groupings and the enrichment of the animals' physical environment, whenever possible.
  8. Euthanasia
    When it is necessary to euthanize an experimental animal, the animal must be euthanized in a humane manner, in such a way as to ensure immediate death, and in accordance with approved procedures. (For approved procedures see. AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia, June 2007). No animal shall be discarded until dead. Any dead animals shall be disposed of by an acceptable method.
  9. Conveyance to Third Parties
    It is the policy of the University not to supply animals to individuals or organizations for use in experiments, as pets, or for other purposes except as approved by the ACUC.

Endorsed by the membership of the Animal Care and Use Committee, Spring Quarter, 2009

Page Updated 11.13.2017