Campus makes strides in meeting new national animal-use rules
2002 will be a year of transition for the estimated 450 U of S people who care for and use animals in teaching and research – as those in charge of the University’s animal care and use program gear up to meet new national guidelines that start next January.
Two of the key U of S people involved – Animal Resources Centre Director Dr. Ernest Olfert and Anatomy & Cell Biology Professor Ron Doucette – say the University’s Committee on Animal Care & Supply (UCACS) is pressing forward on a number of fronts in a concerted effort to meet the new national rules.
They say a new on-line training program will become available over the next few months for faculty and staff who use animals, they’ve just launched a new system for keeping track of the education and experience of people using animals, and development of a new approach to the on-site teaching of hands-on skills like surgery on research animals will be under way soon.
Olfert and Doucette say all this activity was sparked by the 1999 passage of new guidelines for the training of institutional animal users, by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).
As reported in the Feb. 2, 2001 On Campus News, Olfert and his counterpart at the University of British Columbia are leading the development of a new national on-line course that will give animal researchers across Canada comprehensive theory training in topics like the care of confined animals, disease, occupational health and safety, recognizing and treating pain, and ethical questions.
Olfert and UBC’s Dr. Jim Love are leading the writing of content for the 14-module course – for which “CCAC basically laid out what type of things it should include,” he says. It includes modules on animal welfare, moral and ethical issues, pain and distress, pain relief, anesthesia, disease, and euthanasia. People at UBC are putting the course into a web-based format, using the WebCT program.
Olfert says much of the 14-module course is written, and some of the modules were to be finished by the end of January.
“By the fall, all the content will be done, so the plan is that by the end of the year the whole course will be ready to use,” Olfert says.
Now, in its latest and most visible move, UCACS has just distributed a new form across campus that asks all those renewing or seeking new protocols for research projects using animals to list their education, their training in the care and handling of animals, and their experience in procedures like administering injections, collecting blood, anesthesia, surgery, and euthanasia.
Doucette, who chairs UCACS’s education sub-committee, says the new form, to be used for all protocol applications as of Jan. 1, 2002, will mean that by the end of the year his group should have a complete inventory of the training and experience of all 450 people on campus who use animals. He says each of the estimated 350 protocols for U of S research or teaching involving animals must be renewed annually.
“This is what we need, to satisfy CCAC’s requirements,” Doucette says.
A UCACS sub-committee reviews 30-40 protocol submissions at its meeting each month – with 10-15 of those being new applications and the rest being renewals.
Doucette adds that the new form was just part of what was passed at the last semi-annual meeting of the more than 30 members of the whole UCACS, held Nov. 6.
In recent months his education sub-committee had reviewed the whole process of what the U of S should require in the training of faculty and researchers using animals, and how it could properly document that information to satisfy the new national standards.
“We came up with seven policy statements,” Doucette says – covering things like the role of each research project’s principal investigator, policy statements calling for assessment of the competence of anyone using animals, and revisions to the overall U of S animal care and use protocol, which includes the new section on each person’s training and experience. The full 18-page protocol application form, called the “U of S Assurance of Animal Care Form”, is on the Office of Research Services website, at: www.usask.ca/research/anim care.shtml
Doucette and Olfert say development of the web-course and the documentation system for researchers’ training and experience covers two of the three initiatives that must be undertaken as the result of CCAC’s new rules for animal care and use.
The third is creation of practical hands-on skill training to be developed and delivered on-campus. That would offer lab-based lessons on techniques of injections, collecting blood, surgery and related procedures.
“That’s going to be a huge job,” Olfert says, involving the design of skill-training sessions, identifying who needs what training and who will teach it, and handling the logistics of arranging for the sessions.
“The education committee thinks we should tackle one area first, and that’s the surgical skills – the most invasive procedure,” Olfert says.
Doucette says that matter is next on his sub-committee’s plate, and it will start right away in its bi-monthly meetings on the question of how to assess competency in these skill-training lab sessions.
Olfert notes the University of Manitoba recently hired a training officer to take charge of this issue on that campus, and in the U.S., the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act orders institutions to have a training officer.
“But here we hope to do it in a slightly different way,” Olfert says. “We hope to use our skilled people from across campus.”
He and Doucette note that training in animal care and lab use has been going on all along, with new faculty and staff being shown whatever procedures are involved in their projects. And they point out that for at least 15 years all U of S graduate students who either work now with animals or who may do so in their future careers, are required to take the non-credit Grad Studies 988 course, “Laboratory Animal Care”.
But the new CCAC rules are forcing universities to ensure that all faculty and staff who handle animals are trained.
“I feel we’ve made quite good progress, and in the next year we’ll be refining it,” Doucette says.
“We have to meet national standards, so it’s better to design our own and make sure they meet the needs of the U of S,” he says.