1. Purpose of policy
The purpose of this policy is to promote the highest ethical standards in all research, teaching projects and activities involving the care and use of animals for scientific purposes conducted under the auspices of the University. In particular, the policy aims to assist researchers, teachers, animal carers and associated technical staff to consider their ethical responsibilities with regards to not only the design and conduct of their research or teaching projects, but also the conditions, practices and procedures associated with the care and management of animals in facilities.
2. Policy scope and application
This policy applies to all University staff and students, visiting academics, volunteers and other personnel involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes who conduct research or teaching projects involving animals under the auspices of the University. It also applies to the University of the Sunshine Coast Animal Ethics Committee and all staff involved in the ethical review of proposed and current animal research and teaching projects.
This policy is an important element of the University's implementation of, and compliance with, the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (2013), the Queensland Animal Care and Protection Act (2001) and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007). The policy is also informed by the Guidelines to promote the wellbeing of animals used for scientific purposes: The assessment and alleviation of pain and distress in research animals (2008).
Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:
Animal refers to all live non-human vertebrates (that is fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods. It includes animals at earlier stages of their development i.e. embryonic, foetal and larval forms that have the potential to experience pain or distress based on evidence of neurobiological development.
Animal carer refers to any person involved in the care of animals that are used for scientific purposes, including during their acquisition, transport, breeding, housing and husbandry.
Scientific purposes means all activities conducted with the aim of acquiring, developing or demonstrating knowledge or techniques in all areas of science, including teaching, field trials, environmental studies, research (including the creation and breeding of a new animal line where the impact on animal wellbeing is unknown or uncertain), diagnosis, product testing and the production of biological products.
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) means detailed description of a standardised procedure or process.
The Act means the Queensland Government Animal Care and Protection Act (2001).
The Code means the National Health and Medical Research Council Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (2013).
4. Policy statement
4.1 Ethical principles in the design of the project
All University research and teaching projects and activities involving and relating to the care and use of animals for scientific purposes must be designed with an awareness of The Code, The Act and University requirements.
Respect for animals must underpin all decisions and actions involving the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. This respect is demonstrated by:
a) using animals only when it is justified
b) supporting the wellbeing of the animals involved
c) avoiding or minimising harm, including pain and distress, to those animals
d) applying high standards of scientific integrity
e) applying principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3Rs) at all stages of animal care and use:
Replacement: techniques that totally or partially replace the use of animals for scientific purposes
Reduction: the use of the minimum number of animals necessary to ensure statistical validity and achieve the proposed objectives
Refinement: techniques used to minimise adverse impacts on animals
Animals must only be used for scientific purposes when the use of the animals is essential to one or more of the following:
a) obtaining and establishing significant information relevant to the understanding of humans and/or animals
b) the maintenance and improvement of human and/or animal health and welfare
c) the improvement of animal management or production
d) obtaining and establishing significant information relevant to the understanding, maintenance or improvement of the natural environment
e) the achievement of educational objectives in science, as specified in the relevant curriculum or
4.2 Ethical review
The USC Animal Ethics Committee has been established by the University with an agreed Terms of Reference, comprising a Chairperson and members appointed to each of the categories defined in The Code. The care and use of animals for scientific purposes is subject to ethical review, approval and monitoring by the USC Animal Ethics Committee. The Committee determines whether the potential effects on the wellbeing of the animals involved are justified by the potential benefits.
Use of animals for scientific purposes conducted under the auspices of the University must only commence after approval in writing from the Animal Ethics Committee. If approval is suspended or withdrawn the activity must cease immediately.
If the use of animals for scientific purposes involves only observation with no physical contact with animals and no impact on the animals or their habitats, then approval can be given by the Chairperson of the Animal Ethics Committee.
Where possible, when a procedure, process or technique is likely to be used in multiple projects, SOPs should be developed by animal users, approved by the Animal Ethics Committee and made available to other animal users. When using an approved SOP animal users must be competent to implement the SOP.
The ethical review should be timely, efficient and transparent, and based upon the content of The Code and The Act. The review should not only ensure compliance with ethical requirements, but also aim to facilitate research by providing helpful guidance and feedback to researchers.
The review processes as outlined in this Policy and Procedures only apply to animals as defined in this Policy and the Code. However emerging evidence about the ability of animals to experience pain and distress needs to be taken into account by animal researchers and teachers in the design and conduct of their projects.
4.3 Ethical conduct of the project
The conduct of research and teaching projects and other relevant activities involving the scientific use of animals must comply with the protocol approved by the USC Animal Ethics Committee (USCAEC), and with all standard and specific conditions set by the Committee at the time of approval.
The USCAEC monitors compliance by reviewing annual and final reports for all approved projects, and by any other means deemed necessary or appropriate such as random audits (which may involve inspection of animals and associated records used in research and teaching projects).
All members of a team involved in the scientific use of research or teaching projects involving animals have a shared responsibility to ensure the ethical and humane use of animals, and must be aware of, and satisfied with, the degree to which the conduct of the project meets National and State requirements and University policy. This includes the need for supervisors to be fully aware of, and have a shared responsibility for, the conduct of projects by the students they supervise.
The Chief Investigator or Teacher in Charge has ultimate responsibility for the care and use of animals in a project, and is responsible for ensuring that all personnel involved in animal research or teaching projects or other relevant activities are competent, or receive appropriate training for the procedures they perform, and are adequately supervised by a competent person.
4.4 Reporting requirements of AEC
The AEC must provide the Academic Board, via the Research Committee, with a copy of its annual report in the format specified in the AEC’s Terms of Reference. The AEC must provide the Research Committee with a written report of each meeting for noting at the next meeting.