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Definitions of research animal, laboratory animal, laboratory animal veterinarian, research veterinarian, and research animal veterinarian

John J. HasenauVeterinary Consortium for Research Animal Care and Welfare

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Introduction

The Veterinary Consortium for Research Animal Care and Welfare is a new group composed of representative veterinarians from the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners, American Association of Laboratory Animal Science, and Association of Primate Veterinarians. The goal of this newly formed consortium is to provide accurate information on the care and use of research animals to inform the public, lawmakers, and the scientific community about the veterinary care and welfare of these animals.

During its initial discussions, the consortium determined that there frequently was confusion or misunderstanding surrounding what was meant by terms such as laboratory animal, laboratory animal veterinarian, and similar or related terms. Thus, the consortium believed it would be beneficial to provide concise definitions for these terms that clearly indicate how the terms overlap and where they differ.

Definitions

Animal research

The consortium recommends that animal research be used as an umbrella term covering the vast array of scientific research that involves animals. Such research can range from studying animal behavior in the wild to evaluating various diseases in humans and animals, identifying safety profiles of new drugs before they are given to people and animals, and using pets in veterinary clinical trials to identify effective treatments.

Research animal

The consortium recommends that research animal be defined as any animal used in any type of research that involves the collection and analysis of data. Under this definition, research animals would include wild and captive animals in natural environments used in behavioral, environmental impact, and other studies; agricultural animals used for research purposes in an agricultural or laboratory setting; companion animals used for clinical trials or other research activities; and animals used in traditional laboratory settings.

Laboratory animal

The consortium recommends that laboratory animal be defined as any animal used for research, testing, or teaching in a traditional laboratory setting. By contrast, the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals defines laboratory animals as “any vertebrate animal (ie, traditional laboratory animals, agricultural animals, wildlife, and aquatic species) produced for or used in research, testing, or teaching.”1

Note that under the consortium's definition, research animal would be a more encompassing term than laboratory animal. The term laboratory animal would apply to that subset of research animals used in a traditional laboratory setting and would not include companion animals used in clinical research or wild animals or animals in zoological and private collections used in research. Laboratory animals used for research, testing, or teaching could also be referred to as research animals.

Laboratory animal veterinarian

Under the consortium's proposed definitions, a laboratory animal veterinarian would be any veterinarian who cares for laboratory animals used in scientific research through the development of clinical and preventative health programs for those animals to ensure humane use, guarantee optimal animal welfare, and ensure valid research outcomes. Laboratory animal veterinarians care for a wide variety of species, from cold-blooded vertebrates (eg, fish and frogs) to rodents and nonhuman primates. In addition, laboratory animal veterinarians provide guidance to researchers, research staff, and research technicians on humane care and proper handling of laboratory animals and commonly oversee animal care and use programs at research institutions. They also help to ensure a research institution's regulatory compliance and provide essential and mandated input into the design of research protocols that are reviewed and approved by the institutional animal care and use committee prior to study initiation. Laboratory animal veterinarians perform and guide research staff on surgery techniques and the proper use of anesthetics and analgesics. They also provide veterinary care, make diagnoses, prescribe medications and treatments, administer vaccinations, and perform euthanasia as necessary. Laboratory animal veterinarians may manage and design animal research facilities, and they may collaborate on research or conduct independent research in comparative medicine, focusing on diseases, medical procedures, drug treatments, surgical techniques, or nutrition.

Laboratory animal medicine

Laboratory animal medicine is recognized by the AVMA as the specialty field within veterinary medicine that is responsible for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease and preventing or minimizing pain and discomfort in research animals and for identifying complicating factors in animals used as subjects in biomedical activities.

Research veterinarian

The consortium recommends that the term research veterinarian be applied to any veterinarian whose primary job function is conducting research. Research veterinarians often pursue education beyond the veterinary degree and may have a master's or doctoral degree in a related field such as pharmacology, virology, bacteriology, pathology, parasitology, toxicology, nutrition, or endocrinology. Research veterinarians may work in academia, for industry, or for the government. Research veterinarians working in pharmaceutical and biomedical research firms assist in the discovery, development, and testing of drugs, chemicals, and biological products, such as antimicrobials and vaccines, for human and animal use. In addition, research veterinarians play a role in reducing or eliminating the threat of animal diseases, contributing to human and animal health, and may be called on by other researchers to provide consultation regarding animals used as models of human diseases and biomethodology.

Under the consortium's proposed definitions, the terms laboratory animal veterinarian and research veterinarian would not be interchangeable. The term laboratory animal veterinarian would generally refer to veterinarians who are involved in an animal care and use program overseeing the care and well-being of animals used in research. They may also be involved in collaborative or independent research as a component of their job. The term research veterinarian would more commonly be used to refer to veterinarians primarily involved in independent research related to a focused area (eg, pharmacology, virology, bacteriology, pathology, parasitology, toxicology, nutrition, or endocrinology). Board-certified laboratory animal veterinarians are veterinarians who have completed additional training in programs approved by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine, a specialty recognized by the AVMA, and have passed a certification examination.

Research animal veterinarian

Along with its other proposed definitions, the consortium recommends the adoption of a new, more inclusive term—research animal veterinarian—intended to refer collectively to laboratory animal veterinarians and research veterinarians. It is the consortium's hope that this term would be used to reflect the broad scope of involvement veterinarians have in animal research. Research animal veterinarians may perform the activities of laboratory animal veterinarians, research veterinarians, or both, and the research animal population being studied may include wild or captive animals in natural environments used in behavioral or other studies, agricultural animals used for research purposes in agricultural or laboratory settings, traditional laboratory animals, and companion animals used for clinical trials or other research activities.

Conclusions

The Veterinary Consortium for Research Animal Care and Welfare believes it is important for the public to understand that the term animal research refers to all types of research involving animals and that research animal veterinarians contribute in a multitude of ways to society's understanding of human and animal biology, behavior, and disease.

Members of the Veterinary Consortium for Research Animal Care and Welfare

Representing American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine: Stuart Leland, Mike Talcott

Representing American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners: Leah Makraon, Hugh Price

Representing American Association of Laboratory Animal Science: Donna Clemons

Representing Association of Primate Veterinarians: Joyce Cohen, John Hasenau

Liasons: Taylor Bennett, Jeanne Wallace

References

1.

1. National Research Council. Guide for the care and use of laboratory animals. 8th ed. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2011. Available at: grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/guide-for-the-care-and-use-of-laboratory-animals.pdf. Accessed Sep 21, 2020.

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Contributor Notes

From Lab Animal Consultants, Sparks, NV 89431 (Hasenau).

Members of the consortium are listed at the end of the article.

Address correspondence to Dr. Hasenau (labanimalconsultants@charter.net).