COVID-19: Guiding Principles for Working Safely with Research Animals in the Vivarium

June 10, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2022 

COVID-19 Virus: Safeguarding & Supporting Your Research OperationsThe University of Michigan (U-M) COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan details how the U-M Ann Arbor campus is complying with MIOSHA Emergency COVID-19 rules to protect and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for the entire U-M community, including researchers and study teams.

U-M’s COVID-19 Vaccination Policy requires that all U-M faculty, staff, and students – including all three campuses and Michigan Medicine – receive the COVID-19 vaccine and remain up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes receiving all series of a vaccine and any additional boosters when eligible, with limited exemptions.

This policy is subject to change as the pandemic and public health guidance continue to evolve and will be regularly reviewed as public health guidance dictates.

Face Coverings

In light of current levels of case transmission, the University is requiring the use of face coverings by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, as described by the U-M Face Covering Policy for COVID-19.

Certain units, such as Michigan Medicine, may issue local-level policies that supersede this policy and must be followed as applicable. The requirements of this policy will be in place until levels of transmission decrease below the thresholds as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 Research Operations

U-M research re-engagement guidelines do not supersede any more stringent or heightened lab or other safety requirements – including any related to the use of specific PPE – applicable to a given research project, which must be followed at all times. Individuals should review the signage posted on the outside of each vivarium entrance/animal room door for information about the specific types of PPE required for entry into that room.

Additional information about institution-wide guidelines and planning resources can be found on the U-M department of Environment, Health & Safety’s COVID-19 Information webpage and on the Campus Maize & Blueprint website.

For detailed guidance on managing your animal-related project(s), click on the links below to jump to a specific FAQ topic:

Frequently Asked Questions

Research Re-Engagement & Operations 

  • To support equitable access to animal resources, housing, and procedure space(s), ULAM will monitor PI and room census and, in certain situations, may need to limit housing space, animal orders, and procedure room reservation time to accommodate as many laboratories as possible.

  • ULAM has developed an online reservation tool for booking time in both animal housing and procedure rooms. Specific, step-by-step instructions on how to access this tool have been emailed to all individuals listed on an active animal use protocol. To reserve time:

    • Access the tool (calendar) using the link provided in the original email invite you received or by navigating to U-M’s Google Drive. Note that you must have valid Level-1 U-M login credentials and be listed on an active animal use protocol to view the Room Reservation Schedules.

    • We strongly recommend that each lab designate one member of their team to serve as the primary point of contact for booking rooms.

    • Only those procedure rooms listed on your approved protocol(s) should be reserved.

    • Please be considerate of your fellow researchers by providing adequate contact information for shared spaces, reserve only the minimum amount of time needed for your research needs, and close the reservation calendar when you are finished.

  • If you have questions about how to reserve rooms, please contact your facility’s ULAM Husbandry Supervisor.yellow lock icon  For troubleshooting issues pertaining to calendar access, please email ulam-questions@umich.edu.

yellow lock icon Links marked with a lock icon can only be accessed using valid Level-1 U-M login credentials.

  • If you are interested in using electronic, video, or web-based alternatives (e.g., online training modules, Zoom webcasting, and/or recorded videos) for any training or procedures involving animals, please contact the ULAM Training Core at ulam-trainingcore@umich.edu to discuss available solutions.
  • While ULAM has received no indication that vendors are not prepared to supply animals at pre-COVID levels, supply chain, transportation, and other external factors may impact external animal sources. We will continue to monitor vendor supplies closely and will inform laboratories of any anticipated challenges to obtaining animals.
  • Due to increasing national demand for irradiators in the human patient care industry, the U-M’s bedding distributor notified us in early December that we should consider substitutions for ⅛” irradiated corn cob bedding, such as ¼” or combination bedding. All PIs and Lab Staff who have animals housed in buildings impacted by this shortage have been notified of ULAM’s contingency plans and asked to provide feedback on important next steps. Questions or concerns about the ongoing shortage of irradiated corn cob bedding should be directed to the ULAM Husbandry Management Team at ulam-h-managers@umich.edu.
  • Sudden increases in animal ordering may overwhelm ULAM staff’s ability to receive, transfer to the appropriate facility, and house incoming animals within a reasonable timeframe. Although not expected at this time, ULAM may be required to temporarily delay requests in order to ensure adequate staff availability and, by extension, incoming animal welfare.

Animal Ordering & Other ULAM Services 

All animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard procedures. Placing orders for animals should be conducted using existing methods (e.g., all animal orders must be submitted through eRAM via an Animal Purchase Request).

  • ULAM is able to order supplies for laboratories on a limited basis. Orders will be placed weekly and any lab placing an order will receive additional follow-up communications about when to expect the supplies and how they will be made available for pick-up.

  • A limited selection of non-controlled substances may be purchased through ULAM via the Non-Controlled Substances Purchase Request Form.

  • If you have specific questions about ordering or procurement, please contact ulam-questions@umich.edu.

Yes, ULAM Technical Services (e.g., ULAM Breeding Colony, injections, and study support) are available to assist labs. Services may be requested using the same methods (i.e., email or service request forms) that you have always used.

  • At this time, in-person training classes and workshops offered by the ULAM Training Core are being regularly scheduled.

  • As a reminder, unsupervised animal-based research may only be performed by staff that has already completed all in-person training; this includes laboratory-specific training.

  • Online training classes offered through MLearning are still available, and administrative staff from the ULAM Training Core are available to answer questions via email (ulam-trainingcore@umich.edu).

  • Please contact your Research Compliance Associate in the Animal Care & Use Office if you have questions or challenges with completing required training due to COVID work limitations.

At this time, ULAM is accepting rat donations into the Redistribution Program (formerly the "Rodent Recycling Program"). If you are interested in donating your animals, please complete the Animal Redistribution Intake Form.

Laboratories may currently rent anesthesia machines from ULAM. For more information, please visit the Anesthetic Machine Certification and Rental webpage.

IACUC/ACUO Operations & Compliance 

  • Please use the same processes you have normally used to contact the Animal Care & Use Office (e.g., send an email to acuoffice@umich.edu, contact your Research Compliance Associate directly, or call the main office line at 734-763-8028).
  • If you need to provide an alternate means of communication, please update your alternate phone and email within the Personnel Page on the protocol. If you are unable to update your information in the eRAM system, please send an email to acuoffice@umich.edu with the relevant updates.
  • Suspected cases of animal abuse, misuse, or mistreatment should be submitted via the Animal Concern Hotline.
  • The IACUC, through the Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO), continues to review submissions (i.e., protocols and protocol amendments) to the Committee, pursuant to normal processes. PIs can submit, and committee members can review, submissions to the IACUC using eRAM.
  • Please contact your Research Compliance Associate (RCA) or the Animal Care & Use Office (acuoffice@umich.edu) directly for additional guidance and assistance.
    • RCAs and the Quality Assurance (QA) Team are also using the U-M’s Remote Office Hours Queue to virtually connect with the research community. To meet with an RCA:
      1. Log on to officehours.it.umich.edu using your Level-1 credentials
      2. In the search function, type ACUO or search by RCA name
      3. A list of RCAs will populate with a status of either Open or Closed
      4. When your RCA says Open, you can click on their page to Zoom with them!
    • Visit animalcare.umich.edu/connect-with-qa to learn more about the Remote Office Hours Queue as well as how to connect with the QA Team.
  • The Winter 2022 (February – March) round of semi-annual IACUC facility inspections will look and function as usual.
  • IACUC inspectors will don face shields in areas where appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • We will continue to work in close partnership with the Facilities & Operations and Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) departments to ensure that inspections can be completed safely and efficiently, and that all inspectors follow the requisite policies and procedures that are in place to protect our community.

Controlled Substances 

  • As a reminder to laboratories who are ramping up their animal-related research projects after a period of inactivity, controlled substances and documentation should be verified upon return to the lab.
  • To assist with this process, the U-M Office of Research (UMOR) Controlled Substances Monitoring Program has created a short, three-step ramp-up checklist for labs to follow.
  • Additional questions or concerns should be directed to the UMOR Controlled Substances Monitor at cs-monitors@med.umich.edu.

Contact the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitor immediately via pager at (734) 936-6266

  • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number

  • They will assist you through the inspection process

Do all of the following in this order:

  1. ​Notify the U-M Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) at (734) 763-1131. DPSS will take a report and conduct an investigation.
    • Obtain the following information from DPSS:
      • UMDPS report number
      • Investigating officer's name
      • Officer's phone number
  2. Notify the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitor via pager at (734) 936-6266
    • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number
    • The Controlled Substance Monitor will assist in reporting the incident to the DEA, if applicable

Miscellaneous Topics 

  • Research involving animals has been essential to nearly every major advancement in human and animal medicine. Animal models will continue to play a critical role in the development of treatments and therapies to overcome the many health challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The following resources provide additional information about the role that animal research is playing in the study and exploration of COVID-19 treatments:

  • While dogs and cats living with people diagnosed with COVID-19 in several countries have been reported to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, transmission is uncommon and infectious disease experts, as well as multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations, continue to agree that there is no evidence at this point to indicate that, under natural conditions, pets spread COVID-19 to people or other animals.
    – Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • It is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with household pets in ways also recommended for limiting contact with other humans in their household (e.g., wear a mask for close contact, maintain six-foot distance when possible, etc.)
  • Although several new research articles have been disseminated showing that some domestic animals can be experimentally infected with SARS-CoV-2 and may transmit the virus to other animals in an experimental setting, it is important to note that:
    • Studies include a very small number of animals in an experimental setting and do not mirror naturally-induced infections
    • Results from these studies should not be extrapolated to the potential for SARS-CoV-2 to be transmitted by companion animals kept as pets
      – Source: AVMA
  • ULAM veterinary personnel will continue to monitor reports on risks related to research animals and communicate those with the research community.

Additional Information & Resources

  Unit/Webpage For information about...
 

U-M COVID-19 Research Portal

Institution-wide planning and guidance on research operations, including a catalog of U-M research projects related to COVID-19.

 

Environment, Health & Safety
COVID-19 Information

Resources for researchers include facility signage, COVID-19 workplace planning documents, and internal/external guidance on maintaining a safe work environment.

 

Medical School COVID-19
Research Operations

Medical School-specific guidance, including news and updates affecting U-M biomedical research operations.

 

Michigan Medicine Headlines
COVID-19 Updates

Information for faculty and staff who may have questions regarding general information, protocols, procedures, or policies pertaining to Michigan Medicine's COVID-19 response.

 

Campus Maize & Blueprint Website

University-wide news and announcements pertaining to COVID-19.

  Unit/Individual With questions about…
 

Your ULAM Faculty Veterinarian
(or email ulam-vets@umich.edu for questions
that do NOT require immediate veterinary attention)

Veterinary animal care and/or clinical support

 

ULAM Husbandry Management Team
(ulam-h-managers@umich.edu)

Facilities and/or day-to-day husbandry operations

 

ULAM Business Office
(ulam-questions@umich.edu)

Billing, procurement, or animal ordering

 

Animal Care & Use Office
(acuoffice@umich.edu)

Protocol approvals, amendments, and/or IACUC protocol reviews

 

Controlled Substances Monitors
(cs-monitors@med.umich.edu)

Use of controlled substances in research, including those projects involving animals

 

Institutional Biosafety Committee
(IBCstaff@umich.edu)

Research with potentially hazardous biologics, including but not limited to recombinant DNA and synthetic nucleic acid molecules

 

Environment, Health & Safety
(EHS-AnimalSafety@umich.edu)

Animal use and occupational health and safety. Specific questions regarding COVID-19 can be sent to EHS-Covid-19-Reporting@umich.edu

 

We take our role as partners in your research very seriously and are committed to ensuring the highest standards of excellence in our service to the U-M research community and to the animals entrusted to our care. Please continue to reach out to our team, on campus or remotely, for guidance and assistance on how we can best support your research; we are here to help you and your team be successful.

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The microscopic image of the coronavirus above is credited to Alissa Eckert, MS, and Dan Higgins, MAMS, and is sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).