The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is looking at potential changes to the statistics reporting requirements for American laboratories, following a petition by the country’s National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS). FRAME has been asked to provide information to support a response to the proposals by the Philadelphia-based Alternatives Research and Development Foundation (ARDF).
The current requirements are much looser than UK and European rules. Species used are often grouped into large categories and procedures classified only by pain levels. Each research facility is required to submit an annual report to the Animal Care Regional Director for the State where the facility is located each year.
The report must confirm that professionally acceptable standards governing the care, treatment, and use of animals, including appropriate use of anaesthetic, analgesic, and tranquilising drugs. It must also give numbers of animals being bred, conditioned, or held for use in teaching, testing, research, experiments, or surgery, but not yet used.
The NAVS petition has called for more details, saying that the existing reports provide insufficient data about animals used for research. It has asked for an amendment to require details of how animals are used for research and said that USDA should publish the figures annually.
It wants a new system based on the European one, including a standardised reporting form similar to that in use in the EU that provides an account of the numbers and types of animals, and for what specific research, testing, and educational purposes they are being used.
FRAME supports the call for more and more detailed information because of the importance of such data in planning Three Rs initiatives (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). UK regulations are tighter than EU rules, and require much more detail than the current US standards, but FRAME continues to call for even more information to be recorded and published.
Scientific Programme manager Dr Michelle Hudson-Shore said: “While the detail provided by the UK animal experimentation statistics is invaluable to our work at FRAME we along with other stakeholders continue to lobby for more information to be made available. Openness and transparency regarding animal experimentation provides the impetus to implement Three Rs initiatives and fosters a more constructive and cooperative relationship between scientists, stakeholders and the general public.”
FRAME’s written response to the ARDF says: “Detail such as primary purpose of procedures, types of procedure, genetic status of the animals and species breakdown, is essential for monitoring and identifying important and specific trends. Having this level of information available allows organisations such as FRAME to question areas of high usage and to prioritise studies which look to refine, reduce and replace procedures that raise particular welfare or scientific concerns.”
In particular, it stresses the importance of identifying species, rather than categories. “Different species of animal can have very diverse health and welfare needs. Having procedures broken down by species offers the opportunity for very focussed and species-specific refinement initiatives such as detailed housing and husbandry guidelines.”