Use of vertebrate animals in research and education in the United States is regulated such that institutions receiving federal funds must maintain a Letter of Assurance regarding compliance with these regulations. Oversight of animal use when research involves wild and free-ranging native species, however, often leads to lively debate among IACUC members and others as well because the animal welfare act and its implementing regulations were written primarily for application to captive animals used in the biomedical arena. Available guidelines, reference materials and examples, including the Guidelines to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals published by the Institute of Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR) of the National Research Council and the American Veterinary Medical Association?s Guidelines for Euthanasia, give only scant coverage to wildlife and consideration of the settings in which field research is conducted. This conference aims to foster dialogue and education among researchers, IACUC members, and government officials responsible for oversight of animal research. These discussions will lead to more meaningful and appropriate application of animal welfare laws in the context of wildlife research and, in turn, to improved care and use of wild animals in wildlife research. These outcomes strike at a central tenet of every study that uses animals?a respect for the animals used in research and a desire to treat them ethically and humanely. The conference will convene speakers and participants from the various sectors that interact in the animal welfare arena: wildlife biologists, IACUC members, veterinarians, government officials from relevant agencies (primarily the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare of the National Institutes of Health and the USDA APHIS Animal Care program), and key private organizations such as AAALAC International, PRIM&R, and the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare.
This grant provided partial funding for a conference that brought together stakeholders to discuss the options for effective oversight of wildlife research. Most Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) default to the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, which is published by the National Academy of Scienceâ€™s Institute for Laboratory Animal Research. Developed for biomedical research, this document is lacks information critical for appropriate oversight of studies involving wild vertebrates. The conference was designed to highlight the problems IACUCs and oversight personnel face in evaluation of wildlife protocols and options for addressing these issues. The conference included 163 attendees representing wildlife biologists, institutional officials, and representatives of federal regulatory agencies and accreditation organizations for a frank discussion concerning how best to facilitate more effective and appropriate oversight of wildlife research. In terms of intellectual merit, attendees were presented with real-life examples of review problems associated with the review and oversight of wildlife protocols and led through responses by panels of experts. This process provided concrete training by attendees regarding acceptable actions when faced with decisions on wildlife protocols. Because the attendees represented a broad cross-section of stakeholders and represented many different institutions, the information was carried back to their home institutions for further dissemination. As a result, the attendees left better equipped to handle wildlife related issues and, most importantly, a set of contacts for consultation when future issues arose. The broader impacts of the conference were that wildlife-related issues have enjoyed a far higher greater visibility at all national meetings research oversight personnel attend for continuing education and training. The greatly increased visibility has resulted in development of a wildlife training module in the CITI program (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative), a template protocol for wildlife research, numerous presentations and workshops at national meetings, and, most importantly, recognition of taxon-specific guidelines as appropriate references by major oversight and accreditation organizations, including the National Science Foundation.