Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions about U-M’s Animal Care & Use Program. As a public institution and an accredited site for animal use, we are open to inquiries, reports of concern, or other communications from within and beyond the University.
Additional questions about the care and use of laboratory animals at the University of Michigan that are not addressed here should be directed to the Animal Care & Use Office at email@example.com or (734) 763-8028.
If you are a researcher interested in learning about the many resources available to support your project, we encourage you to review the following:
- Protocol Approval – Learn about the protocol approval process, including protocol review, processing timelines, excused projects, and protocol renewals.
- Facilities & Systems Access – Information on how to gain access to the myriad systems U-M uses to manage animal care and use projects.
- Training – Learn about U-M's multi-faceted animal care and use training program, which includes personnel training, continuing education, and veterinary education programs.
- Business Services – Get more information about the many business aspects associated with managing an animal care and use project, including fee-for-service research support services and budget consultation to assist with your next research grant proposal.
- Animal Use – Information on the many animal care and use services offered by the U-M, including animal transport, animal use and occupational safety, animal husbandry, veterinary care consultations, and animal enrichment.
If you are a member of the media, or have a media inquiry, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication at (734) 764-2220 and your question will be routed to the appropriate media team member.
Research studies involving animals have led to critical contributions to the treatment of a wide variety of diseases – as well as joint replacement procedures, organ transplantations, and heart bypass operations – and are responsible for countless drug therapy discoveries and enhancements.
Some of these discoveries, including the feline leukemia vaccine and flea control methods, for example, have benefited companion animals as well as animals in the wild. These advances would not have been possible without the use of laboratory animals.
Mice, rats, and various species of fish comprise 98 percent of all animals involved in scientific research at U-M. The other 2 percent includes frogs, pigs, rabbits, primates, sheep, chickens, and guinea pigs.
Good animal care and good science go hand-in-hand. Highly trained, licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians with specialized training in laboratory animal medicine provide medical care for all animals at the University. Technicians are certified by the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). Many of our veterinarians have also received voluntary Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (DACLAM) certification.
Our Animal Care & Use Program is a model for other biomedical research institutions around the country. U-M has been continuously accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International since its first inspection in 1971. We are fully-compliant with all federal, state and university regulations and policies, as well as national professional standards.
Before a U-M scientist can begin a study involving animals, a detailed description of the study’s protocol and purpose must be approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC). This Committee includes members of the general public, non-scientists, veterinarians, and experienced animal researchers.
The Committee reviews the goals, objectives, and scientific benefits of the proposed research to certify that the project has appropriate merit. It verifies that all animals will be provided proper housing and care, and ensures that those who will be working with animals have received proper training and have practices and procedures in place to reduce as much pain or discomfort to the animals as possible.
The review process is rigorous and often takes many weeks to complete; researchers must prove they are qualified to conduct the study in an appropriate and humane manner. The IACUC also routinely monitors research it has approved to make sure researchers are following the letter and spirit of their protocol.
You can call the Animal Concern Hotline at (734) 763-8028 or report any concerns anonymously using our online submission form.
Reports and sources of information are maintained in confidence within University guidelines and in accordance with standards and regulations promulgated under the Animal Welfare Act.
The University purchases animals for research from specialized vendors, most of whom raise the animals specifically for use in research. Vendors of certain species must be licensed by the USDA.
The Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM) provides guidance for the University’s Animal Care & Use Program as well as veterinary care for all animals on campus. All animals are housed in ULAM facilities, where our animal technicians provide expert husbandry care and a variety of training courses for faculty and staff members involved in the care, treatment, and use of animals in their research.
Any and all observed mistreatment or failures to follow procedures and regulations should be reported to the Animal Concern Hotline.
Consistent with standards for disaster planning and emergency preparedness as outlined by the Animal Welfare Act and the Guide for the Care & Use of Laboratory Animals, the Animal Care & Use Program works in close partnership with groups both internal and external to the U-M to maintain mechanisms for the provision of continued daily care to all animals housed on campus in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency that may interrupt normal business operations, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes veterinary medical care; assessment of animal health and well-being; provision of food, water, and clean cages; and maintenance of appropriate environmental conditions.
All animal care staff (including veterinarians, veterinary technicians, husbandry and housing, etc.) are considered essential staff and report to work regardless of weather conditions or an emergency reduction in University operations to ensure that the highest animal welfare standards are maintained at all times and in all circumstances.
The University is firmly committed to the “Three Rs” principle of biomedical research:
- Reduce the number of animals used to the minimum required for the study,
- Replace animals with less sentient or non-animal models whenever possible; and
- Refine all practices to provide the best animal welfare possible.
In recent years, we have implemented training simulators to reduce the use of animals in training clinical staff; increased the use of cell cultures to test new treatments; and made other improvements to ensure we make the wisest use of animals in situations where they are needed.
Most research protocols require animals to be euthanized so that scientists may study their internal organs and tissues. Strict guidelines for each species help to ensure that the animals experience no discomfort.
In certain circumstances, professionals in various medical and allied health fields need to learn new skills as preparation for performing procedures and operations on human patients. For instance, surgeons learning to implant a new heart-assisting device that could save the lives of people with heart failure may need to learn the implant procedure through an operation on a livestock animal with a heart size similar to that of a human.
U-M has one of the nation’s most advanced clinical simulation centers and, wherever practical, we use technology-based simulators, not animals. However, sometimes animals are the only acceptable way to teach or train clinicians. In such cases, U-M’s IACUC must review, approve, and monitor the protocol under which animals are to be used.
- General media inquiries and requests with non-urgent deadlines may be sent to email@example.com.
- For immediate assistance with urgent matters, please call the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication at (734) 764-2220 and your question will be routed to the appropriate media team member.
If you are a teacher or group leader interested in having a member of our Animal Care & Use Team come and speak to your students or group members about animal care and use at the University of Michigan, please email the Animal Care & Use Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 763-8028 with information about the time, place, audience, and topic for your discussion.
U-M communicators routinely promote the results of research involving animals as part of showing the importance of this type of biomedical research in efforts to understand, diagnose, and treat human and animal diseases.
These communicators, as well as the Animal Care & Use Program (ACU) Program, are also acutely aware of the potential for negative and unintentional attention regarding animal research. To reduce this risk, researchers are strongly encouraged to consult, and partner with, both the ACU Program and their respective communications offices (Michigan Medicine Department of Communication, Michigan News Office, and/or the communicator that covers their department/school/college), on any aspect of communication regarding animals.
When creating content (stories, images, videos, social media posts) about research that involves animals, all U-M communicators and research team members should:
- Mention as prominently as possible that the work was done in animals to avoid confusion with clinical research. (Similarly, research based in cell cultures or computer models should be prominently identified as such)
- Name the type of approved animal involved in the work
- Refrain from overly stating the implications of animal research for human health
- Refrain from sharing images or video of animals taken during experiments, during or after procedures, or post-mortem. When possible, use approved stock images of animals (available for free upon request to email@example.com), or use descriptions, illustrations, animations, or scientific images made at the microscopic level
- Be especially cautious when choosing images or video to post to social media or public websites; materials created for use in scientific communications may be easily misinterpreted by members of the public who come across them, even if the intended audience was a scientific one
- Follow your IACUC approved protocol and all existing safety requirements. Images depicting animals or animal procedures must be consistent with the information (purpose, method, personnel) contained within the IACUC approved protocol. Images must also follow all existing lab safety/PPE requirements (goggles, gloves, lab coats, etc.)
Specific Issues Pertaining to Animal Research
Laboratory animals have played a vital role in many of the most significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease over the last several decades. Transporting animals between specialized breeders and research institutions, as well as among research groups and participants in multi-site projects, is of increasing importance to this work.
However, under pressure from activists who oppose the use of laboratory animals in research, airlines and a number of other transportation services have begun to restrict or even prohibit the transport of these animals. The University of Michigan strongly supports the continued safe, humane, and rapid transport of laboratory animals in the interest of continued progress in research aimed at improving the lives of both humans and animals.
To ensure the integrity and well-being of the animals being transported, our program maintains a comprehensive set of guidelines and procedures for properly transporting animals. In addition, the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine provides a multitude of facilities, equipment, and services to ensure proper animal transport both to and from campus.
The University never collects stray animals or animals from shelters. Stringent standards and the integrity of research results require that animals be obtained from licensed dealers who breed animals specifically for research purposes.
While at the University, the animals receive humane and compassionate care, including appropriate anesthetics and analgesics, identical to those received by animals in veterinary clinics or humans in hospitals.
The University of Michigan does not enter into primate research lightly. Primates are used only when there is no acceptable alternative. For example, when we need to have as full of an understanding as possible of how humans may respond to a particular intervention and we know the response in other animal models will be too dissimilar.
Currently, less than one one-hundredth of one percent of U-M research animals are primates; 98 percent of all animals used in research at the U-M are mice, rats, and various species of fish. All primates are either rhesus macaque monkeys or baboons. Chimpanzees are not used in biomedical research at U-M.
In addition to laboratory studies with primates, U-M researchers also study primates in the wild in their natural habitat to record their social interactions and study behavior within their natural environment.
Many of the medical advances we take for granted today would not have been possible without primate research. These include polio and rabies vaccines, chemotherapy, artificial joint replacements, coronary bypass surgery, and organ transplants.
University of Michigan practices for research animal adoption align with those of numerous professional organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.
These practices support the adoption of healthy, post-study research animals when it is appropriate to do so, as determined by the institution’s animal care and use oversight body and in careful consideration of the unique needs of each research animal.
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 treatments for COVID-19:
The Important Role of Animal Research in mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Development – published by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this NIAID Now blog post explores how the agency’s “decades-long support and conduct of coronavirus and vaccine research in both small and large animal models laid the groundwork for helping to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.”
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.
- Additional questions not addressed here should be directed to the Animal Care & Use Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 763-8028.
- If you are a member of the media or have a media inquiry, please email email@example.com or call the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication at (734) 764-2220 and your question will be routed to the appropriate contact.