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Conduct of Animal Subjects Research

  • Responsible Office: Animal Care and Use Program, Research and Innovation
  • Current Approved Version: 11/18/2019
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

VCU recognizes that conducting animal subjects research is a privilege. Animal subject research has contributed to impactful discoveries in medicine and science for many years.  VCU also realizes that animal subject research is an issue that concerns many. The founding principle of VCU’s Animal Care and Use Program (ACUP) is the ethical treatment of animals. Accordingly, VCU employs the ethical mandate known as “The Three Rs” of animal research:

  1. Replacement – use a non-animal model if available (i.e., absolute replacement).  If not available, use animal subjects lower on the phylogenetic scale (i.e., invertebrates with less ability to feel pain.)
  2. Reduction - the number of animal subjects is reduced to the smallest number possible (respecting the value of each life).
  3. Refinement - if animal subjects must be used, reduce to the minimum number consistent with sound research design. In these animal subjects, all procedures ensure the highest quality of compassionate care and comfort (applying standards developed to ensure quality of life through the minimization of risk and discomfort, adequacy of housing, and advanced veterinary medicine).

VCU complies with federal regulations from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and implements best practices.

This policy applies to all VCU research, training, experimentation, biological testing, teaching, and other university-sanctioned activities involving live vertebrate animals regardless of funding source and regardless of where the activity is occurring (for example, at another institution). 

Noncompliance with this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited.

Who Should Know This Policy

All individuals involved in animal subject research are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.


Animal Subjects Research

Activity that uses live vertebrate animals in research, research training, experimentation, biological testing, teaching, or other university-sanctioned activities.


The Animal Care and Use Program (ACUP) officially interprets this policy. The ACUP is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures. Please direct policy questions to the Animal Care and Use program director.

Policy Specifics and Procedures

The ACUP supports the humane care and use of animal subjects through the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) together with the Division of Animal Resources (DAR). These groups, created in accordance with federal regulations, work in unison to put into practice the standards established by AAALAC International (AAALAC). VCU has been accredited continuously by AAALAC since 1966. 

VCU’s animal research program undergoes full inspections by AAALAC every three years. Unannounced inspections are also conducted by APHIS at least annually.

VCU’s Institutional Official (IO), the vice president for research and innovation, appoints the members of the IACUC and ensures maintenance of/compliance with of the Animal Welfare Assurance/reporting requirements, USDA Registration/reporting requirements and AAALAC accreditation requirements.  

The ACUP and the IACUC each maintain written policies and procedures governing its operations and administration. The DAR maintains standard operating procedures (SOPs) for animal handling, husbandry, operations, and veterinary care and treatment. These policies, procedures, and SOPs are available to all VCU employees and students on the ACUP website.

All individuals conducting or otherwise involved in animal subjects research must complete the initial and continuing education requirements as required by the IACUC and as conveyed on the ACUP webpage. 

IACUC members and administrative staff must receive separate training as required by the IACUC and as conveyed on the ACUP webpage.

Principal investigators must submit their animal subjects research protocols and amendments via the VCU designated system for review and approval by the IACUC. No animal subject research can be conducted until IACUC approval is received.

A Post-Approval Compliance Monitoring (PACM) Program ensures continued compliance with the requirements that apply to the approved protocols. The PACM program conducts all monitoring in accordance with OLAW regulatory requirements.  

If a PI does not respond to inspection findings by the date indicated in the PACM memo, typically within 28 calendar days, animal orders will be blocked by the IACUC coordinator. If the PI continues to be unresponsive, the IACUC will notify the attending veterinarian, and the animals may be placed into a holding protocol. 

All individuals conducting or otherwise involved in animal subjects research must follow all requirements that apply to their animal subject research protocol(s) as conveyed by the IACUC. 

All noncompliance issues are handled through the IACUC in accordance with OLAW requirements.


ACUP related forms can be found on the ACUP website.

  1. Current ACUP Forms

Related Documents

  1. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare Policies and Laws (OLAW)

  2. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations (United States Department of Agriculture)

  3. AAALAC International

  4. ACUP website

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

None – New Policy 


There are no FAQ associated with this policy and procedures.