Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the policy on animal care and use at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill?

The use of animals in research at the University of North Carolina 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 responsibility for the welfare and humane treatment of the animals. Additionally, the University abides by established federal standards of humane animal care.

Who is responsible for ensuring adequate care and use of research animals?

The University of North Carolina’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) oversees the University’s animal program, facilities and procedures. IACUC reviews all animal use protocols before any research can begin. They also conduct semi-annual inspections of the animal facilities and set schedules for the correction of any deficiencies noted. IACUC provides advice and counsel to the Associate Vice Provost for Research Services and also ensure proper training for animal caretakers, investigators, and lab personnel.

What Federal safeguards ensure appropriate care and use of animals?

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

Federal laws, such as the Animal Welfare Act, contain detailed requirements related to the care and use of animals. The Guide summarizes these policies. USDA also sends veterinary inspectors who conduct unannounced inspections of lab animal facilities.

Other UNC-CH and Federal Regulations and Regulatory Offices

How has animal research benefited humans and animals?

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 for cancer
  • Open-heart surgery
  • Insulin for management of diabetes
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Microsurgery to reattach severed limbs
  • Surgical treatment for atherosclerosis
  • Medications to control epileptic seizures
  • Vaccination of animals against distemper, rabies, anthrax, tetanus and feline leukemia
  • Treatment for cancers in pet animals
  • Control of heartworm infection in dogs
  • Treatment of arthritis in dogs

In addition, research on animals has contributed significantly to saving 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 and computer modeling. Technological breakthroughs in this area have fundamentally changed much of 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 or instruction; testing; and biomedical or basic research. Animals frequently are used for teaching or demonstrating a well-known fact or phenomenon. For example, preserved fetal pigs often are used to teach anatomy. A certain amount of anatomy can be learned from photographs, but the intricate three-dimensional arrangement of organs or muscles often cannot be fully understood unless a dissection is performed.

Live animals are most often used when a system under study cannot be described in sufficient detail to create a simpler model. To create an effective computer simulation, one must know enough about the system under study to program the computer. Likewise, the use of cell cultures is limited because cultured cells do not interact with each other in the many complex ways that cells and organs interact in an intact organism.

Animals also may be used in teaching to demonstrate physiological mechanisms or processes. These types of processes can be duplicated by using a computer program or showing a videotape. Often, however, a vital part of the learning exercise is for the student to actually see or feel the living tissue or actually insert a catheter in a blood vessel.

Non-animal models can be very useful complements to the use of animals in teaching and research — and technology holds great promise for advances in such methods. However, many areas remain where models cannot replace animals.

Are animals routinely euthanized during or after experimentation? If so, how?

The majority of the 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 the animals but generally observe behavior or conduct behavioral training. Any animal euthanization is conducted with techniques approved by IACUC and the campus veterinarian. Approved techniques are described in the report of the Panel on Euthanasia of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

[Some information provided by University of Colorado at Boulder Animal Resources]