Research Integrity and Assurance

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare

The use of animals in research dates back over 2,000 years. Early Greek scientists such as Aristotle and Erasistratus are believed to be the first to use animals in experiments. As other researchers explored using animals in research, they made remarkable advancements in anatomical knowledge. In the 1800s, animal models began to be used in research on common medical conditions.  

Initially, there was no regulatory oversight of animal experimentation. In modern times, animal research is highly regulated. Investigators have a moral, ethical, scientific and legal responsibility to perform animal research utilizing the most humane methods possible and to utilize non-animal alternatives whenever possible. This responsibility is also shared with the institution, animal care staff, veterinary staff and anyone else involved in animal research. 

Investigators should carefully consider the ethical issues surrounding the use of animals in research and be sensitive to society’s concerns on the topic.

When planning animal research, it is important to consider the three R’s of animal research ethics:

Refinements Reduction Replacement
Make refinements to minimize discomfort, distress and pain to animals whenever possible. Always use sound scientific practices. Use the minimum number of animals necessary to obtain valid results. Research should not be duplicative unless scientifically justified. As science advances, consider using mathematical models, computer simulations and in vitro biological systems whenever possible.

Animal research oversight

Institutions that receive federal funds for research are required to have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The IACUC’s primary function is to oversee and evaluate ASU’s animal care and use program and the welfare of the animals used in research.

The IACUC must have, at minimum, a veterinarian, scientists experienced in animal research, a non-scientific member and a community member not affiliated with the university. One person may fill dual roles if they meet the qualifications for both roles. 

The IACUC is responsible for:

  • reviewing animal research protocols
  • inspection of animal facilities
  • Animal Care and Use Program review
  • reviewing animal welfare concerns

The IACUC works with investigators to ensure that animal research is performed with the highest ethical standards and with minimization of pain and distress whenever possible.

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