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

June 10, 2020

Last Updated: Friday, July 31, 2020 

COVID-19 Virus: Safeguarding & Supporting Your Research Operations

Research Re-Engagement

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer authorized the limited reopening of laboratory research on May 15, 2020. Research leadership from across the University of Michigan (U-M) campuses are working together to safely re-engage research activity through carefully managed waves, in accordance with the governor’s authorization.

University-wide planning efforts are led by a Research Ramp-up Committee, which includes representation from Research Associate Deans; the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS); Preeti Malani, U-M’s Chief Health Officer; the Provost’s Office; and the Rackham Graduate School.

Read the latest announcement about research re-engagement from Rebecca Cunningham, U-M Vice President for Research, sent to all faculty and staff with active sponsored research on July 30, 2020.

​Please refer to the U-M Office of Research (UMOR) Research Re-Engagement webpage for additional information and recent updates on institution-wide planning and re-engagement efforts amid COVID-19.

For detailed guidance on specific aspects of managing your animal-related project(s) during the research re-engagement process, please click on the links below to jump to a specific FAQ topic:

Guiding Principles for Working Safely with Research Animals in the Vivarium

The guiding principles outlined below are applicable to all animal users and are relevant to multiple stages of the research re-engagement process.

1.

The Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) will maintain mechanisms for providing continued daily care to all animals housed on campus. This includes continued veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and well-being; provision of food, water, and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions.

 
     

2.

Although ULAM husbandry and veterinary care operations are no longer operating on a “split-shift” mode, our commitment and priority focus remains with critical standard care services. While ULAM staff may be able to perform some research support services that go beyond routine husbandry and veterinary care on an emergency, case-by-case basis, these arrangements must be made well in advance and cannot be guaranteed. Our top priority is ensuring that the highest animal welfare standards are maintained at all times and in all circumstances.

 
     

3.

Research activities during the ongoing re-engagement phase could be impacted by the potential for another subsequent ramp-down should there be a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, PIs must thoughtfully and carefully plan their animal ordering and breeding colony production.

 
     

4.

ULAM can support the acquisition of new animals for research and educational purposes. Breeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team). Effective June 29, 2020, all animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard procedures.

 
     

5.

If your animal-related experiments require the use of anesthetics, analgesics, or any other pharmaceutics, ensure you have adequate supplies that are not expired prior to initiating those experiments. Similarly, gas anesthetic machines must be certified in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and IACUC expectations.

 
     

6.

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

 
     

7.

Vivarium re-engagement is dependent upon availability of all of the following:

  • Appropriate ULAM staffing levels
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for entry to the facility as well as any additional protocol-specific PPE
    (i.e., for handling hazardous agents)
  • Disinfectants required for use on surfaces within the facilities
 
     

8.

Research interaction with animals and space within ULAM and animal housing rooms must be carefully scheduled/coordinated to ensure mandated social distancing and space density directives.

To facilitate cooperation:

  • 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.
  • Animal holding and procedure rooms will be identified with the maximum allowable occupants at a given time. Sanitation procedures needed between users will also be provided.
  • Please be considerate of your fellow researchers by providing adequate contact information for shared spaces and reserve only the minimum amount of time needed for your research needs.

  • 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.

 
     

9.

ANY individual who has been approved to re-engage in research activities in buildings designated for re-activation should review the applicable ULAM Research Re-Engagement and Vivaria Traffic Plans** PRIOR TO building re-entry.

As you review these plans, please pay special attention to the new outlined traffic patterns, donning of PPE, and sanitation practices. Amended traffic patterns in most facilities have been created to minimize the likelihood of individuals crossing paths in small corridors; as such, it is extremely important that all individuals follow the directional signage posted in each facility.

**Only personnel listed on active animal use protocols in the specific buildings designated for re-activation in Waves 1–3 will have access to the protected links above.

 
     

10.

Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) approval processes remain intact and any changes to research protocols must be submitted to the IACUC for review and approval prior to implementation, pursuant to normal processes.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Re-Engagement / Building Re-Activation

If you have an active animal use protocol in a building that has been selected for re-activation, you should:

  • ULAM will not limit access to animal housing rooms.

  • Access to individual buildings is being managed at the school/college/unit level; therefore, each laboratory should start by working with their respective department to receive approval for their re-activation plans, which will subsequently lead to building access. For more information about how to begin the re-activation process, please visit the UMOR Research Re-Engagement webpage.

  • Once approved for re-activation, NO additional steps are required in order to receive access to the vivaria beyond our existing requirements for animal housing access.

  • Research activities during the ongoing re-engagement phase could be impacted by the potential for another subsequent ramp-down should there be a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, PIs must thoughtfully and carefully plan their animal ordering and breeding colony production.

  • Effective June 29, 2020, all animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard proceduresBreeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team). 

  • Studies that can be done safely while following all of the required social distancing guidelines can begin. Please see the following FAQ for additional information and guidance on performing complex procedures.

  • If your animal-related experiments require the use of anesthetics, analgesics, or any other pharmaceutics, ensure you have adequate supplies that are not expired prior to initiating those experiments. Verify that certification of gas anesthesia machines has not expired.

  • Research interaction with animals and space within ULAM and animal housing rooms must be carefully scheduled/coordinated to ensure mandated social distancing and space density directives. 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 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.

Some complex procedures that involve multiple personnel (e.g., large animal surgery) cannot physically be performed while maintaining six-foot social distancing. However, evidence suggests that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) similar to that used in Animal Biosafety Level 2 (ABSL-2) research effectively minimizes the potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Therefore, such procedures may be permissible under the following conditions:

  • Standard, laboratory-provided surgical garb, which includes a gown, hair covering, gloves, and a cloth or surgical face mask with the addition of a face shield, must be used when at least six feet of social distancing cannot be achieved. Surgical masks may be re-used but should be replaced if the mask becomes wet or visibly soiled. Face shields should be discarded or decontaminated after each use and stored in a clean area.
  • Use of this PPE regimen in lieu of six-foot distancing is only permissible in situations where distancing is physically impossible; otherwise, social distancing expectations must be maintained. If, at any time during the procedure social distancing is possible, it must be practiced.
  • In exceptionally rare circumstances, maximum room density expectations may not be possible. Mitigating practices, if conceivable, should be developed in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Health & Safety (EHS).
 

HOW TO REQUEST AN EXCEPTION

To assist with assessing the requirement for such exceptions, a request must formally be submitted, reviewed, and approved by both EHS and the ULAM Clinical Veterinarian (or their designee) assigned to the facility/building where the procedure(s) will occur. Complete the Research Re-Activation Exceptions for Special Procedures Request Form to request an exception.**

Each request will be used to review procedures already described in an IACUC approved protocol that, when done properly, may violate the existing six-foot social distancing and maximum room density directives in place by the State of Michigan Executive Orders.

**Note that more than one protocol may be included on each form submission.
You should expect to receive a response from EHS/ULAM regarding the status of your submission within 5 business days.

  • Research activities during the ongoing re-engagement phase could be impacted by the potential for another subsequent ramp-down should there be a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, PIs must thoughtfully and carefully plan their animal ordering and breeding colony production.
  • Effective June 29, 2020, all animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard proceduresBreeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team).
  • Studies that can be done safely while following all of the required social distancing guidelines can begin. Please see the FAQ above for additional information and guidance on performing complex procedures.

  • Yes, once your laboratory-specific safety plan has been approved.
  • Studies that can be done safely while following all of the required social distancing guidelines can begin. Please see the FAQ above for additional information and guidance on performing complex procedures.
  • Effective June 29, 2020, all animal orders are being accepted and processed per standard proceduresBreeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team).
  • Research interaction with animals and space within ULAM and animal housing rooms must be carefully scheduled/coordinated to ensure mandated social distancing and space density directives. 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 (see FAQ below for more information).
  • 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.
  • 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 in order 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. For troubleshooting issues pertaining to calendar access, please email ulam-questions@umich.edu.

  • Researchers who may need to access core/other support services in buildings that are outside of their re-activated, assigned wet lab building(s) must ensure that they are included on the activation list for that specific building; otherwise, they will not be granted building access solely for the purpose of using the core/support service. This is especially critical for those Medical School researchers who may need to visit non-Medical School buildings or vice versa.
  • Transporting animals between buildings should be coordinated in close consultation with your facility's ULAM Husbandry Supervisor yellow lock icon and must follow the Procedures for Animal Transportation.
  • ULAM strongly recommends that you coordinate animal transportation through buildings with single entry checkpoints during off-peak hours in order to speed up the building re-entry process and minimize environmental stressors to maintain animal health status.

Yes, as long as you have been identified as ‘essential’ staff by your Principal Investigator (PI) and Research Associate Dean, you may continue to access the vivarium to complete essential research activities.

Please note that all PIs have been deemed ‘essential’ and ‘critical’ in order to fulfill their responsibilities and to access a building after-hours to address any emergency situations.

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

As long as appropriate PPE is available for ULAM and research staff AND research has been approved for re-engagement, specialized rooms (e.g., isolation and containment housing) will be available.

  • During the ramp down in research operations, ULAM was preserving Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including disposable gowns. Effective June 29, 2020, ULAM husbandry personnel re-instituted the use of disposable gowns in all animal housing rooms.

  • 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 continue to be followed at all times.

  • In addition to the current State of Michigan Executive Order which states that “any individual able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth—such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief—when in any enclosed public space," 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.

  • Effective July 15, 2020, the University of Michigan requires all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. For more information, please refer to the U-M Face Covering Policy for COVID-19.

Effective July 15, 2020, the University of Michigan requires all students, staff, faculty, and visitors to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nose while anywhere on campus grounds. For more information, please refer to the U-M Face Covering Policy for COVID-19. You may also wish to review EHS’ FAQs for Face Coverings for additional guidance.

ULAM continues to negotiate with new and existing suppliers to obtain the PPE needed for the re-engagement of research activities. ULAM will carefully consider alternative options for PPE undergoing supply chain shortages (e.g., masks and gowns).

Alternatives may include the use of laundering cloth masks, lab coats, and scrubs. ULAM is hopeful that limited PPE supplies will have NO negative impact(s) on research re-engagement efforts across all of U-M’s campuses.

  • 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 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 Controlled Substances Monitors at cs-monitors@med.umich.edu.

Animal Ordering & Acquisition 

  • Effective Monday, June 15, 2020, breeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team).

  • Effective June 29, 2020, 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).

  • Labs are encouraged to contact the ULAM Procurement Team (ULAM-Procurement@umich.edu) for any animal orders that are expected to require additional lead-time. For more information, please visit the Animal Ordering & Acquisition webpage.

  • Animal ordering will likely be limited during subsequent re-activation waves in order to effectively manage the:

    • Overall animal population on campus,
    • Efficient and effective workloads for ULAM husbandry and veterinary care staff, and
    • Potential impacts of a future need to ramp-down research operations during a resurgence of COVID-19.
  • 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.

  • Effective Monday, June 15, 2020, breeding colonies may be re-established to produce animals for future projects and requests will be accepted for the importation of animals from collaborating institutions (please note that requests for exporting animals should be discussed in advance with the Rodent Health Surveillance Team).

  • Effective June 29, 2020, 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 has begun ordering 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.

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

  • Research activities during the ongoing re-engagement phase could be impacted by the potential for another subsequent ramp-down should there be a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, PIs must thoughtfully and carefully plan their animal ordering and breeding colony production.

  • 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 supply closely and will inform laboratories of any anticipated challenges to obtaining animals.

  • 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.

  • Research interaction with animals and space within ULAM and animal housing rooms must be carefully scheduled/coordinated to ensure mandated social distancing and space density directives. 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 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.

IACUC/ACUO Operations & Compliance 

As we navigate the myriad challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our research operations, the Fall (August – September) 2020 round of semi-annual IACUC facility inspections will look and function a bit differently than usual.

Examples of what you can expect include:

  • IACUC inspectors will don face shields in areas where appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained
  • You may need to greet inspectors outside of your lab in order to adhere to room density requirements
  • We will make every effort to keep our interactions brief in order to minimize the amount of time that you and your lab staff may need to spend away from your work
  • Except in rare or unforeseen circumstances, all inspections should be completed prior to the start of each building’s second shift

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.

  • Yes, all federally-mandated annual reviews will continue to be processed and reviewed through eRAM. Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO) staff and Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) members will facilitate and conduct these reviews remotely.

  • If you are unable to access eRAM and cannot complete your annual renewal online, the review can be conducted via email or phone. In the event that we need to contact you, please ensure that the contact information you have provided in eRAM is up-to-date. If you need to provide an alternate means of communication and are unable to update your information in the eRAM system, please send an email to the ACUO at acuoffice@umich.edu with the relevant updates.

The Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO) continues to provide services remotely. Should you have any questions, please use the same processes you have normally used to contact the 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.

Suspected cases of animal abuse, misuses, 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.
  • Members (e.g., the Research Compliance Associates – RCAs) of the ACUO continue to provide service to researchers remotely. Please contact the ACUO (acuoffice@umich.edu) for additional guidance or assistance.

Other ULAM Services 

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

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

  • At this time, some (but not yet all) of the in-person training classes and workshops offered by the ULAM Training Core are being regularly scheduled; however, the Training Core is providing training support upon special request.

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

  • Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) deadlines for in-person class and workshop completion will be given a grace period for classes that are not yet available. As additional classes become available, individuals will be contacted with information on registration.

  • ULAM has begun ordering 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.

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

  • EXPIRED anesthetics, analgesics, and euthanasia drugs must NOT BE USED past the expiration date for any animal procedures.

At this time, ULAM is not accepting any animals into the Rodent Recycling Program. We will continue to assess when this Program may once again accept animal donations from labs as additional research re-engagement activities begin across campus.

Laboratories that have been re-activated may rent anesthesia machines from ULAM. For more information, please visit the Anesthetic Machine Certification and Rental webpage.

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 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 Controlled Substances Monitors at cs-monitors@med.umich.edu.

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

    • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number

    • They will assist you through the inspection process

  • The U-M Office of Research (UMOR) has received confirmation from the State of Michigan that the Annual Controlled Substance Inventory must now be completed by Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Completion of the inventory was previously delayed by Governor Whitmer’s ‘Stay Home/Stay Safe’ Executive Order, which has since expired.

  • All laboratories who use controlled substances (CS) in their research who have an active CS license on file with the State of Michigan must complete this inventory. Read the full announcement for more information, including a plan for completing the inventory while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.

  • If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitors as soon as possible at cs-monitors@med.umich.edu.

Miscellaneous Topics 

  • Originally, the Site Visit was scheduled to occur in either May, June, or July. Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the timing of our anticipated AAALAC Site Visit.

  • AAALAC SITE VISITORS WILL NOW BE ON CAMPUS BEGINNING TUESDAY, AUGUST 25 THROUGH FRIDAY, AUGUST 28 TO CONDUCT THE U-M'S MANDATORY RE-ACCREDITATION SITE VISIT.

  • As you may expect, this Site Visit will look different from previous visits as we explore the use of various technologies and teleconferencing solutions that will allow us to adhere to social distancing guidelines and protect the health and safety of our entire community, including our Site Visit Team. In addition to hosting site visitors from peer institutions with close physical proximity to the U-M, which will minimize any hazards associated with air travel, we are working in close partnership with our AAALAC peers to make Site Visit arrangements that will ensure personnel safety while still maintaining the rigor and specificity that is crucial to a thorough assessment of our facilities and our Animal Care & Use Program.

  • Visit the AAALAC webpage yellow lock icon (Level-1 login required) for the latest news, updates, and information about the Site Visit.

  • 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:

    • U-M’s COVID-19 Research Portal – contains guidance and FAQs about how research projects are being managed and maintained as a result of the COVID-19 situation, stories about innovative COVID-related research at U-M, and a catalog of U-M research projects related to COVID-19.

    • NIAID Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research – published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this document defines the institute’s plan for accelerating research to diagnose, prevent, and treat COVID-19. One of the four key priorities outlined in the plan specifically addresses the role of animal models in research:

      • “Improving fundamental knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, including studies to characterize the virus and better understand how it causes infection and disease. Here, the NIH institute specifically notes that small and large animal models that can recapitulate COVID-19 disease seen in humans must be developed.”

    • Statement in Support of the Global Research Community’s Efforts to End the COVID-19 Crisis – this joint statement, resulting from a collaboration between several research advocacy organizations, individual biomedical researchers, and animal care experts, applauds scientists, animal care employees, and other critical lab staff for their tireless efforts to identify new COVID-19 treatments and develop a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.

  • 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, infectious disease experts and 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. – Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • It is recommended that those ill with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.
  • 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, therefore,
    • 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.

Potential Ramp Down of Research Operations 

A required component of continued institutional planning is reversibility, in case a recurrence of COVID-19 forces another contraction of research activity. If this were to happen, the following guidance and resources may be applicable to your laboratory research operations involving animals.

  • If you are suspending breeding of commercially-available animals, try to conserve the fewest number of animals needed to maintain the strain or line. Specifically:

    • Remove male breeders from breeding cages and identify the male

    • Ideally, save the youngest weanlings of a strain (~3-5 weanlings, male and female in separate cages)

    • Save one cage of female weanlings (3-5 weanlings, ideally 6-8 weeks old or youngest available) and label the cages with a “Save for Breeding” note

    • Save one cage of male weanlings (2-3 weanlings, ideally 6-8 weeks old or youngest available) and label the cages with a “Save for Breeding” note

    • If possible, recombine females into socially-housed cages (up to 5 per cage); females from different strains may be combined if socially compatible

    • Consider euthanatizing males if there are several of the same strain to reduce the number of singly-housed animals

  • For strains that need to be maintained by breeding:

    • It is recommended that you reduce the number of breeding cages to 2-3 cages and allow mice to continue to breed

    • Pups should be euthanized prior to weaning except in cases in which breeder cages are being replaced due to age or poor breeding

    • Contact the U-M Transgenic Animal Model Core to see if they have the capacity to provide sperm cryopreservation for valuable strains. To request this service, log in to MiCores (umich.corefacilities.org) and navigate to the Transgenic Animal Model Core

      • Click on the Request Services tab to “Mouse Cryopreservation Services” to fill out a submission form

      • Please contact Thom Saunders (tsaunder@umich.edu) with any additional questions

Maintaining the viability of a breeding colony that includes irreplaceable lines or strains involves actions by critical personnel. This may include establishing breeder pairs, weaning of offspring, animal identification, and genotyping. All of these can be performed by a single member of the laboratory in a relatively short amount of time and are considered “critical maintenance activities.”

  • This will largely depend on the guidance issued by public health officials, leadership from the University of Michigan, and the State of Michigan.
  • During the initial ramp down in research operations that began in March 2020, only those experiments deemed “critical” and those maintenance activities deemed "essential" by the Research Associate Dean (RAD) were permitted to continue.
  • COVID-19-specific studies approved by the RADs and/or the COVID-19 Research Prioritization Committee were also permitted to continue.
  • The resumption of laboratory work during research re-engagement remains building-specific. As such, research staff may only enter buildings covered by their laboratory’s specific Re-Engagement Plan and/or if they were previously deemed “critical” or “essential” staff who were permitted to continue work during the ramp-down in research operations.
  • Vivaria in non-activated buildings cannot be entered and visitor access to any animal facility is prohibited.
  • ULAM will continue to provide special diets if appropriate arrangements have been made with ULAM staff. We will continue to do our best to provide special diets for which we have ready access.
  • If the diets are for clinical care (e.g., required to maintain animal welfare) ULAM will continue to provide these as a priority.
  • The Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) will maintain mechanisms for providing continued daily care to all animals housed on campus in the event of a natural disaster or other events that may interrupt normal business. This includes continued veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and well-being; provision of food, water, and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions. 
  • In the event that a reduction in operations is enacted, ULAM may modify cage/enclosure change frequency and other husbandry procedures that are deemed non-essential to support the continued health and well-being of all animals as determined by Animal Care & Use Program Leadership (e.g., the U-M Attending VeterinarianInstitutional Animal Care & Use Committee, etc.).
  • While ULAM staff may be able to perform some research support services on an emergency, case-by-case basis, our commitment and priority focus must remain with critical standard care services.
  • If you have an animal in need of immediate attention, the quickest means to get in touch with on-call veterinary faculty and staff is to locate a ULAM staff member in your facility.
  • If you are unable to locate someone in your facility:
    • During business hours​ (Monday – Friday, 6:00 AM – 2:30 PM), call the ULAM Veterinary Technician Office at (734) 936-1037.
    • Outside of business hours, call the U-M Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) at (734) 763-1131 to get in touch with the on-call veterinarian.

ULAM team members (e.g., husbandry personnel, veterinarians, veterinary technicians) will reach out to the individual designated as the Animal Health Contact in your IACUC approved protocol with any animal health issues requiring attention. Notifications will be sent using the contact information (i.e., email address, phone number) provided in the protocol.

  • The IACUC, through the Animal Care & Use Office (ACUO), will still review animal use protocols from remote locations. Consequently, PIs and research teams should continue to submit protocol renewals to the IACUC in a timely manner to ensure that the Committee has adequate time to conduct reviews.
  • If you are unable to access eRAM, you should contact the ACUO before your protocol is set to expire. A member of the ACUO (e.g., your RCA) will help with the preparation of your “new” submission.

Just as at any time when authorized personnel are not present, all of your controlled substances must be securely stored in a locked, substantially constructed safe, drawer, or cabinet (or as previously approved by your Controlled Substance Monitor).

  • 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
    2. Obtain the following information from DPSS:
      • UMDPS report number
      • Investigating officer's name
      • Officer's phone number
    3. Notify the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitors via pager at (734) 936-6266
      • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number
      • The Controlled Substance Monitors will assist in reporting the incident to the DEA, if applicable
  • Contact the UMOR Controlled Substance Monitors immediately via pager at (734) 936-6266
    • Enter 31685, then enter your return phone number
    • They will assist you through the inspection process

Routine monitoring visits will not occur during a ramp down in research operations. Please email cs-monitors@med.umich.edu to reschedule.

Additional Information & Resources

  Unit/Webpage For information about...
 

U-M COVID-19 Research Portal

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

 

Environment, Health & Safety
COVID-19 Information

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

 

Medical School Laboratory
Re-Activation Process

Medical School-specific guidance on the laboratory re-activation process, including building information and 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.

 

U-M COVID-19 Information

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

Questions or Concerns?

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 during this uncertain time; we are here to help you and your team be successful.

Additional questions or concerns should be directed to:

  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

 

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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).