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Commitment to Responsible Treatment

‘Research animals must be used in a responsible manner.’

How Does SOT Promote Responsible Use of Animals?

Position on Use of Animals—The Society of Toxicology (SOT) is a professional and scholarly organization of 5,000 scientists from academic institutions, government and industry representing the great variety of scientists practicing toxicology in the U.S. and around the world. The Society is dedicated to supporting the creation of sound scientific information that reduces uncertainty in assessing risks to human health and the environment. Reducing uncertainty in risk assessment benefits everyone through improved decision-making that protects the health of people, animals and their environment. The SOT believes that animal research is necessary for the protection of humans and other organisms (see Position Statement Regarding the Use of Animals in Toxicology), and that the welfare of research animals is of paramount importance.

All applicants for membership in the Society must indicate that they will abide by the SOT Code of Ethics, which states that members will “observe the spirit as well as the letter of law, regulations and ethical standards with regard to the welfare of humans and animals involved in my experimental procedures.” In addition, those who submit an abstract for presentation at the Society’s meetings must conduct their research in accordance with the Guiding Principles in the Use of Animals in Toxicology.

Good science requires that animals used in research are healthy and well cared for, and that pain and distress to the animals is minimized. In addition to ethical concerns, there are scientific reasons for this position. It is well known that altering an animal’s state of health (e.g., inducing stress or pain) can alter the physiology of the animal and the outcome of an experiment.

Recognition of Accomplishments in Promoting Animal Welfare

The SOT recognizes toxicologists whose research innovations promote the welfare of animals, as well as individuals whose efforts increase the public understanding of the use of animals in toxicology research.

The SOT Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award is presented annually to a member of the Society in recognition of the contribution made to the advancement of toxicological science through the development and application of methods that replace, refine or reduce the need for experimental animals. This award recognizes outstanding and significant contributions made by members of the Society of Toxicology to the scientifically sound and responsible use of animals in research. The achievement recognized may be either a seminal piece of work or a long-term contribution to toxicological science and animal welfare.

The SOT Award for Contributions to Public Awareness of the Importance of Animals in Toxicology Research is presented annually to an individual or organization in recognition of the contributions made to the public understanding of the role and importance of experimental animals in toxicological science. This award is important because it encourages and recognizes activities enhancing public understanding of, and appreciation for, the crucial benefits to humans, animals and the environment that result from the use of animals in toxicological research. This award may be for either a single activity or a longer-term contribution to public understanding of the necessity of the use of animals in toxicological research.

The application deadline is in October of the year preceding the award. Applications for both awards and more information are on the SOT Web site.

What Standards Regulate Animal Welfare?

Around the world, animal welfare legislation sets the standards for the proper care and treatment of research animals. For example, in the European Union the European Animal Welfare Directive (Council Directive 86/609/EEC) guides animal welfare. In the United States, the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) (P.L. 89-544) and the Health Research Extension Act (P.L. 99–158) define standards for the proper care and treatment of laboratory animals.

The AWA regulates the use of dogs, cats, primates, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and farm animals (and other animals, as the Secretary of Agriculture may determine) for use in for research, testing and teaching. Originally passed in 1966 and amended several times since, the AWA is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and requires that all proposals to use animals be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). In addition, the AWA requires that animals be provided with adequate food, living space and veterinary attention. Facilities using any of the regulated animals submit annual reports and are inspected periodically and unannounced by the USDA.

The role of the IACUC, as defined by the AWA, is to review every research proposal involving animals and consider the design of each project as it affects the animal. The IACUC also oversees an institution’s animal program, facilities and procedures. The IACUC must include a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine with training or experience in laboratory animal science and medicine, an individual who is not affiliated with the institution in any other way and at least one additional member. Prior to receiving the approval of the IACUC, researchers must demonstrate that the most appropriate species has been selected and that the minimum number of animals needed to produce scientifically valid results will be used. For procedures having the potential to cause discomfort or pain, the researcher must justify the use of such methods and take all necessary steps to minimize the discomfort or pain. Such committees ensure that animals will be used humanely and responsibly to achieve valid scientific goals.

The Public Health Service (PHS) Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, issued in 1985, requires the IACUC to review and approve all research using vertebrate animals that is funded by Public Health Service Agencies, including the National Institutes of Health. Furthermore, this policy sets forth the requirements that are applicable to all research, research training, biological testing and related activities involving animals that are supported or conducted by agencies of the PHS according to the standards set forth in the AWA and the PHS Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

To insure the highest standards of animal care, many laboratories in the U.S. are voluntarily evaluated and accredited by the American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC), an organization that has been accrediting programs for institutions since 1965. AAALAC accreditation signifies that the research facilities are not only meeting the standards required by law, but are going the extra step to achieve excellence in animal well-being.


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