Animal Use in Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience


Our policy is to adhere by the United States Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training.

  1. Transportation, care, and use of animals should be in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act and other applicable federal laws, guidelines, and policies.
  2. Procedures involving animals should be designed and performed with due consideration of their relevance to human or animal health, the advancement of knowledge, or the good of society.
  3.  Animals selected for procedures should be of an appropriate species, quality, and the minimum number required to obtain valid results. Methods such as mathematical models, computer simulation, and in vitro biological systems should be considered.
  4. Proper use of animals, including the avoidance or minimization of discomfort, distress, and pain when consistent with sound scientific practices, is imperative. Unless the contrary is established, investigators should consider that procedures that cause pain or distress in human beings may cause pain or distress in other animals.
  5. Procedures with animals that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress should be performed with appropriate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia. Surgical or other painful procedures should not be performed on anesthetized animals paralyzed by chemical agents.
  6. Animals that would otherwise suffer severe or chronic pain or distress that cannot be relieved should be painlessly killed at the end of the procedure or, if appropriate, during the procedure.
  7. Living conditions of animals should be appropriate for their species and contribute to their health and comfort. Normally, the housing, feeding, and care of all animals used for biomedical purposes must be directed by a veterinarian or other scientist trained and experienced in the proper care, handling, and use of the species being maintained or studied. In any case, veterinary care shall be provided as indicated.
  8. Investigators and other personnel shall be appropriately qualified and experienced for conducting procedures on living animals. Adequate arrangements shall be made for their in-service raining, including the proper and humane care and use of laboratory animals.
  9. Where exceptions are required in relation to the provisions of these principles, the decisions should not rest with the investigators directly concerned, but should be made, with due regard to principle II, by an appropriate review group, such as an institutional animal care and use committee. Such exceptions should not be made solely for the purposes of teaching or demonstration.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Policy on Animal Care and Use at UNC?

The use of animals in research at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is part of the fundamental and legitimate aspects of the University’s academic mission. The University does encourage the use, whenever possible, of alternatives to research animals and welcomes the search for such alternatives. The University accepts both legal and moral responsibilities for the welfare and humane treatment of animals. Additionally, the University abides by established federal standards for humane animal care.

Who is Responsible for Ensuring Adequate Care and Use of Research Animals?

The University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) oversees the animal program, facilities, and procedures at UNC. IACUC reviews all animal use protocols before any research begins, conducts semi-annual inspections of the animal facilities, and sets schedules to correct any noted deficiencies. IACUC provides advice to university administration and ensures the proper training for animal caretakers, investigators, and lab personnel.

The Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Program Director serves as the Chair of the Animal Care Committee for the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.


What Federal Safeguards Ensure Appropriate Care and Use of Animals?

The National Institutes of Health specifies regulations that must be followed in NIH-sponsored research. NIH publishes the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, which details how animals are to be housed. This guide outlines institutional policies, required veterinary care, and facility requirements necessary for lab animals.

Federal laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, contain detailed requirements related to the care and use of animals and the USDA sends veterinary inspects who conduct unannounced inspections of lab animal facilities.


How Has Animal Research Benefited Us?

Animal research has played a major role in the advancement of scientific knowledge in modern society. Almost every major medical advance of the past century (including veterinary medicine) depended on the use of animals in research.

Some advances made possible by animal research include: immunization against polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, hepatitis; broad-spectrum antibiotics; blood transfusions; radiation therapy and chemotherapy; open-heart surgery; insulin; kidney dialysis; microsurgery for the reattachment of severed limbs; management medication for seizures; animal vaccinations against distemper, rabies, anthrax, tetanus, and feline leukemia; control of heartworm infection in dogs; and the treatment of arthritis in dogs.

Research on animals has also contributed significantly to save some endangered animals from extinction.


Why Not Use Alternatives to Animals in Research and Teaching?

Modern science utilizes a wide-range of non-animal research methods, such as cell and tissue cultures and mathematical modeling. Technological breakthroughs in these areas have fundamentally changed scientific research. Scientists continue to identify effective non-animal research methods, but even the most sophisticated technology cannot yet duplicate the complex interactions between cells, tissues, and organs that occur in humans and animals.

Live animals are used for three basic purposes: teaching and instruction; testing; and biomedical research. Animals are frequently used to teach and demonstrate well-known facts or phenomena. For example, preserved fetal pigs are often used to teach anatomy. A certain amount of anatomy can be learned from photographs, but the intricate three-dimensional arrangement of organs and muscle often cannot be fully understood until dissection.

Non-animal models can be very useful complements to the use of animals in teaching and research, however, a vital part of many learning exercises is for a student to actually see or feel living tissue.


Are Animals Routinely Euthanized During or After Experimentation?

The majority of animals used in research are euthanized during or after experimentation, especially if specific tissues or organs are required for study. Other projects are not invasive to animals, but generally observe behavior or conduct behavioral training.

Any animal euthanization is conducted with techniques approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and campus veterinarian. Approved techniques are described in the Animal Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.