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Humane Care and Use of Animals

The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) promotes the humane care of animals whether for companionship, agriculture, sporting, teaching, or research. The use of animals in teaching and research is not a right but a unique privilege with inherent responsibilities. Advances in animal and human surgical and medical care require research which must at times involve the use of animals, as does the training of veterinary students, interns, residents, and graduate veterinarians. Laboratory animals serve an important role in these essential teaching and research efforts, but their use must be justified and humane care insured by teachers, scientists, and local peer review committees. Alternatives to the use of live animals should always be considered and animal use reserved for those times when acceptable alternatives are not available. The use of animals for teaching, basic research, or clinical trials must be carefully scrutinized to ensure that meaningful results are obtained for the benefit of animal and/or human health. Survival after surgery is important for many research and teaching projects, but it must be justified and humane care and high quality of life must be a priority.

ACVS promotes and encourages treatment of animals with high-quality professional care and humane concern. To help achieve these goals, the following guidelines are established:

A. Care of Individual Animals

  1. The ACVS endorses guidelines set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the “Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations.” 

  2. The ACVS also endorses the use of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide, NRC 2011) and the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural  Animals in Research and Teaching (the Ag Guide, FASS 2010).

  3. Techniques for euthanasia should follow guidelines established by the American Veterinary Medical Association Panel on Euthanasia (AVMA 2020).

B. Diplomate's Responsibility

  1. Diplomates should follow the guidelines set forth in the National Institutes of Health and the USDA as described above and in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide, NRC 2011) and the Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural  Animals in Research and Teaching (the Ag Guide, FASS 2010).
  2. Diplomates at educational and research institutions should encourage and assist their institutions to become accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC).
  3. Diplomates at educational and research institutions should assist in the development of an "Animal Care and Use Committee." Diplomates should take a leadership role in establishing and reviewing protocols for animal use.
  4. Diplomates should always consider methods of teaching and research which do not require the use of live animals. For example:
    1. Basic surgical techniques, such as aseptic preparation, instrument handling, knot tying and suturing, should be taught using artificial materials, audiovisual instruction or cadavers before students engage in exercises using living animals.
    2. Wherever possible, simulated models should be instituted to teach fundamental techniques of surgery.
    3. The number of teaching laboratories using living animals should be kept to a minimum and the exercises selected to maximize the principles of surgery rather than specific techniques.
  5. Diplomates should promote a sensitivity and concern among students, interns, and residents of the need for humane care and treatment of animals.
  6. Non-survival teaching laboratories, in which the animal is anesthetized, does not regain consciousness, and is humanely euthanized at the conclusion of the laboratory, are recommended. Survival teaching procedures are discouraged and should be justified only if the learning experience of the student is materially enhanced and the knowledge gained cannot reasonably be obtained in another way.

C. College's Responsibility

  1. The ACVS accepts the obligation to remain current on topics concerning the ethics of animal usage and to keep the members apprised of alternatives to animal use and of the laws pertaining to animal use.
  2. The ACVS, through its Continuing Education Committee, shall carefully scrutinize all submitted abstracts for appropriate and humane care of animals and shall only accept those that follow NIH guidelines and the Animal Welfare Act.
  3. The ACVS shall not publish any manuscript in its publication, Veterinary Surgery, in which the materials and methods are not consistent with NIH guidelines and the Animal Welfare Act.
  4. The ACVS, through its Research Committee, shall fund research only at institutions which have AAALAC accreditation or which follow NIH guidelines. Each proposal submitted for consideration must contain a statement, signed by the Diplomate investigator (or co-investigator), that this requirement has been met.

While the College supports and encourages the implementation of the NIH guidelines and the Animal Welfare Act for the care and use of laboratory animals, it is not responsible for the actions of individual members.