The well-being of research animals depends upon careful and frequent observation and monitoring of these animals by investigators and research staff, as well as by the animal care staff. Every IACUC-approved protocol must include a plan for observation and monitoring of animals for signs of pain or distress based upon the research procedures performed on the animals and the possible effect of the procedures on animal health and well-being. Observation and monitoring by the investigator/research staff is in addition to the routine observation and monitoring performed by the animal care staff. All observations, treatments, and procedures must be documented in the individual animal medical record for USDA-regulated species. These include rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters (see http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/policy/policy3.pdf). Laboratory rats (of the genus Rattus) and mice (of the genus Mus) do not require individual animal records.
Individual Animal Medical Record
The individual animal medical record serves as:
- A permanent record of animal health and research results;
- A means of communication among the research team, and between the research team and the veterinarian;
- Documentation of adherence to the protocol and standards of veterinary medical care; and documentation of compliance with regulations and standards required by the Animal Welfare Act and Public Health Service Policy.
- Individual animal medical records are established for each mammalian species except rats and mice species held in centralized vivaria. There are specialized forms available for quarantine, anesthesia, surgery, post-operative care, laboratory testing, and pathology. USDA records (e.g., USDA forms for disposition of dogs and cats) must be held for a period of three (3) years. Daily clinical records on individual animals must be held for at least one (1) year. It is the responsibility of the veterinarian to maintain these records for these periods of time for regulatory purposes; investigators may keep copies longer as determined by the duration of the protocol.
Investigators/Research Technicians Responsibilities
Whenever investigators/research technicians observe or perform procedures on animals, the general health status as well as any treatment, medications, or procedures performed must be documented in the daily clinical record for the animal. Post-procedural cage cards are used for rodents when invasive protocol-related procedures or anesthesia are used. This card must include the date, procedure performed, contact person and his or her contact information. Research staffs are responsible for observing animals for signs of pain or distress following experimental procedures, as specified in the IACUC-approved protocol. All entries made into the individual animals health record need to be dated and initialed by the person making the notation. The final disposition of the animal or method of euthanasia, including dose and route of any euthanasia agent administered, must be recorded in the individual animals health record.