Brock University has enacted a number of measures in response to the public health situation created by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. The Brock Animal Care and Use Program has a crisis management plan. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, this plan has been revised to include a Pandemic section to help ensure adequate animal care is maintained.
In case of a long-term crisis, a contingency plan has been drafted for basic animal husbandry within the facilities. This plan includes a task list for all animal housing rooms specifying the animal husbandry requirements. The animal facilities have a supply of food and bedding that will last approximately six-eight weeks and are procuring more supplies as a precaution. More details can be found on the University’s coronavirus information website. Please keep checking the Research section on the Frequently Asked Questions page for the latest research-related updates.
The Use of animals of research, teaching or testing at Brock University animal-based science program is subject to ethical requirements under the Ontario Animals for Research Act, the Canadian Council of Animal Care Guidelines for the Care and Use of Experimental Animals, and Brock University’s policies as outlined in the Faculty Handbook, Policy Statement 2.3 Animal Care and Use.
Oversight of the Brock University Animal Care and Use Program is through the University Animal Care Committee(ACC). The ACC oversees all teaching and research activities involving animals, develops standard operating procedures, guidelines in compliance with the CCAC and reviews all animal protocol applications, amendments and renewals. There is a representation on the ACC from faculty, the community, student body, and animal care staff(veterinary and technical). The ACC reports to the Vice-President, Research, The Vice-President of Research may direct an Associate Vice-President, Research to act on his/her behalf as official designate. Terms of Reference for the ACC can be found (TOR).
All researcher involving vertebrate and higher form invertebrates (eg cephalopods) being used by faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, research associates, and all other personnel regardless of the source of funding must be covered under an approved protocol from the ACC before research can begin.
Approved protocols are subject to Post Approval Monitoring(PAM) visits to collaboratively support research attain the highest level of care for research animals, their protocols and adherence to regulatory requirements. This program has annually scheduled on-site visits from members of the ACC during the first year of an animal protocol.
In order for Brock University to ensure optimal health and well-being for animals used in animal-based science, the Program supports all activities of the Brock University Animal Care Committee (ACC). The ACC reports to the Vice-President, Research. The Vice-President, Research may direct an Associate Vice-President, Research to act on his/her behalf as official designate. The terms of reference for the ACC can be found here.
There is representation on the ACC from faculty, the community, the student body and Animal Care Services (veterinary and animal care staff). ACC meetings cannot be held without the presence of at least one community representative and one veterinarian. The ACC may approve, not approve or require changes to Animal Use Protocols (AUPs) using consensus of the entire ACC. The ACC oversees all teaching and research activities involving animals, develops all relevant standard operating procedures and reviews all animal protocol applications, amendments and renewals.
No work with vertebrate animals may be performed prior to approval granted by the ACC. The ACC bears the responsibility of ensuring that all animal-based science performed at Brock is conducted in accordance with best of class practices in Canada and internationally, and at minimum the policies and guidelines of the CCAC as amended from time to time. In order to maintain Good Animal Practice (GAP) certification, the Animal Care and Use Program is assessed regularly by the CCAC every three to five years and Brock must comply by responding to CCAC recommendations.
In addition, a provincial veterinary inspector from OMAFRA conducts an annual inspection in order to assess operation of the ACC, housing facilities and quality of care. Bi-annual inspections of housing facilities are also conducted by one of the clinical veterinarians on the ACC. Post approval monitoring (PAM) visits to instructors and researchers are conducted by an ad hoc committee of the ACC either annually and/or during the first year of an animal project.
The University has a moral commitment to provide appropriate care of, and respect for, animals involved in animal-based science however aims to exceed minimum standards. Therefore, the University supports an Animal Care and Use Program which is responsible for all aspects of humane animal care and animal-based science.
The Animal Care and Use Program is an important component of Brock’s initiatives to become a comprehensive university with more active research and more graduate programs. The Comparative Bioscience Facility (CBF) in the Cairns Building was built with a vision of enabling future research goals and expanding our research programs in anticipation of attracting of dynamic new hires.
This vision has been partly realized with the hiring of two Canada Research Chairs and other award winning faculty members who perform animal research and train graduate students in Biological Sciences, Health Sciences, Kinesiology, Neuroscience, Psychology and occasionally Chemistry. Research supported by the Animal Care and Use Program is innovative and has impact in areas of health, wellness, medicine, the environment and business.
Goals of the Animal Care and Use Program:
As a recipient of research funding from recognized granting councils, Brock researchers must adhere to the policies and guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). Read a summary of our latest CCAC Assessment Report and Brock’s response.
Moreover, as an Ontario university, Brock must maintain compliance with provincial legislation, including but not limited to the Animals for Research Act (Ontario) (R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER A.22), as amended, and its regulations. All University faculty members have an obligation to comply with the University’s policies as outlined in the Faculty Handbook. For the section on Statement of Principles of Research Ethics, see 2.3 Policy Statement: Animal Care and Use.
Be sure to read our report: Brock University 2020 Statistics for Animal-based Science
Why are animals used in research conducted at Brock University?
Brock University always uses viable alternatives to live animal research whenever possible.
Ultimately, a researcher must confirm that an animal alternative is not available for their particular research before they are eligible to receive approval to place an animal in a research procedure.
Unfortunately, no alternative model currently exists that can replicate the complex interactions that take place in a whole organism. Many of the studies performed at Brock involve the study of multiple physiological and behavioural systems and it is not possible to model these systems at the cellular level. Cells themselves are incapable of performing functions in the same way as a whole organism.
What kinds of research conducted at Brock University involve animals?
Animal research plays a prominent and currently irreplaceable role at Brock in research conducted in the Applied Health Sciences, Biology, Kinesiology and Psychology Departments and in the Centre for Neuroscience. Brock animal research contributes to projects investigating:
- brain mechanisms involved in learning and memory
- vocal communication and regulation of emotions;
- how limbs and spinal cords regenerate in amphibians;
- the underlying mechanisms of disorders such as insulin resistance and diabetes and how potential exercise and nutritional therapies can ameliorate the condition
- how vertebrates control their body temperature under physiological and pathological conditions
- the role of food components in the regulation of bone health with the long-term goal of developing nutritional strategies that prevent bone loss, preserve bone structure, and ultimately reduce the risk of fragility fractures (i.e. osteoporosis);
- how a failsafe mechanism property of muscles influences their metabolic performance during exercise, sport and work;
- skeletal muscle disorders such muscular dystrophy.
Ethics clearance is required for animal use before funding is granted.
What kinds of animals are involved at Brock University?
Animal research at Brock involves small animals: mice & rats, amphibians, reptiles & fish. This is similar to other animal-based research programs across Canada.
How does Brock ensure the wellbeing of animals involved in research?
From day one, laboratory animals are housed with other animals of the same species in a comfortable environment. In this way, they are socialized to adjust to laboratory handling as a normal part of life. All animals are kept in environments that are tailored to their physical and psychological needs. For example, mice are provided with cotton pads and shredded paper that they can use to make nests and a plastic shelter. All animal research is overseen by qualified veterinarians and all animals involved in research at Brock are provided with veterinary standards of care. All technicians that handle animals are fully trained in animal handling in order to maximize comfort and minimize distress.
For example, a mouse undergoing surgery would be given a general anesthetic and a post-operative analgesic (pain relief medication), just as any person would receive if they were to undergo surgery in a hospital. Following the operation, the mouse’s recovery would be monitored, including incision healing, general body condition, and body weight. If the animal loses greater than 20% of its pre-surgery weight, it would be either removed from the study, treated with antibiotics, provided with supplemental food, or euthanized. Plans and provisions such as these are pre-determined prior to approval of the application by the Brock Animal Care Committee (ACC).
How does the Brock address the ethical treatment of animals?
Before animal research is considered, an analysis of the alternatives must be made. If animal research is found to be the only viable method, the research group must demonstrate to the reviewing ACC that the research will be conducted according to the highest ethical standards.
In evaluating the proposal and the steps that will be taken to ensure the wellbeing of the animals involved, ACCs refer to the “three Rs” for guidance:
- Replacement: designing research methods that avoid or replace the use of animals in a study where animals would otherwise have been used;
- Reduction: minimizing the number of animals used;
- Refinement: designing and modifying procedures to minimize distress.
The ACC application must address any potentially adverse procedures or conditions along with the actions that will be taken to address them. This includes details of any surgery, any necessary anesthetics, humane endpoint conditions for stopping the study, and the ultimate method of euthanasia.
What happens to the animals at the end of the experiments?
Animal research often requires terminal tissue collection and analysis which requires humane euthanasia once the procedure is complete. The method of euthanasia is a key consideration in the ethics review and must be compliant with Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guidelines.
Do I need permission to do animal research at Brock University?
Yes, all Brock researchers must obtain prior approval before undertaking studies using animals. Requests for permission are made to the ACC.
Granting of permission is based upon the review of an Animal Use Protocol (AUP) application form submitted by the principal investigator involved in the study.
What is an Animal Care Committee?
The cornerstone of the CCAC certification program is the Animal Care Committee that reviews requests for animal research and oversee the organization’s animal care and use program. The person responsible for the animal care program is the Vice-President Research, to whom the ACC reports. According to the CCAC guidelines, ACCs are composed of representatives from the following areas:
- a) scientists experienced in animal care and use;
- b) a veterinarian, usually experienced in experimental animal care and use;
- c) an institutional member whose normal activities, past or present, do not depend on or involve animal use for research, teaching or testing;
- d) at least one, and preferably two or more, person(s) representing community interests and concerns, who have no affiliation with the institution and who have not been involved in animal use for research, teaching or testing;
- e) technical staff representation (an animal care, animal facility or animal research technician);
- g) an ACC coordinator (the institutional employee who provides support to the ACC).
How important are community representatives?
The community member plays a critical role in the animal care and use program, representing the interests of the general public. In order to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest, the community representative must not have been involved in animal research in the past. The presence of a community representative is mandatory in order to achieve quorum for a meeting or to validate an annual facility inspection by the ACC. Only the community member and veterinarian have mandatory status on the ACC.
Examples of past and current community members on Brock ACCs include individuals from many walks of life, including members of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, an insect control company employee, a retired police officer and a retired executive. One of the key challenges for all Brock researchers is to explain clearly to the community members, in everyday language, how and why animals are used for research. If you know of anyone that might make a good ACC community member, please contact the Chair of the Brock ACC.
Where can I find out more about the ethical treatment of animals in animal research in Canada?
The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is an independent body that oversees the ethical use of animals in science in Canada. The CCAC is responsible for the dissemination of information on the use of animals in science to Canadians and is accountable to the general public. In addition to guidelines, documents and policies, the CCAC compiles comprehensive annual statistics on the number of animals used in science and produces an annual report to disseminate information to its constituents and the general public. Please visit the CCAC website.