Date adopted: July 11, 2006
Last modified: August 9, 2011
Federal animal welfare regulations (under the Animal Welfare Act) state that all employees or concerned parties must have the means to report deficiencies in animal care and treatment. Federal animal welfare regulations state that no facility employee, committee member or laboratory personnel shall be discriminated against or be subjected to any reprisal for reporting violations of any regulation or standards under the Animal Welfare Act.
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) will investigate concerns involving the care and use of animals used in teaching or research at The University of Montana-Missoula (UM). This includes claims by the public or anonymous complaints concerning any aspect of the animal care and use program or by employees or students who report alleged instances of animal abuse, violation of approved protocols or standard operating procedures, use of animals not covered by approved protocols, violation of any animal-related regulation or standard (such as the Animal Welfare Act, Public Health Service Policy, or UM IACUC policy), or complaints regarding the care received by animals housed in UM laboratory animal facilities.
I. Reporting a Complaint or a Violation
- The Department of Laboratory Animal Resources (LAR) shall conspicuously post phone numbers, email addresses and office locations for reporting of complaints and violations in all University of Montana-Missoula (UM) animal facilities. Such information must also be included on the UM Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) web site for easy public access. Contact information will be provided for the following:
- IACUC Coordinator
- IACUC chair
- Director LAR (DLAR)/Attending Veterinarian (AV)
- LAR general information and phone numbers
- Any person who believes a laboratory animal or animals is/are subject to mistreatment, or that there is a potential violation of IACUC policy (even if immediate harm to animals is not present), is encouraged to report allegations of mistreatment or policy violations to any of the following: the Institutional Official (IO), the IACUC Chair, the IACUC Coordinator, the AV, a member of the IACUC, or the protocol oversight officer. A complainant may remain anonymous.
- A complaint may be reported either orally or in writing and should include a description of the violation, the time and date of violation, the location, the type of animal involved, and any other items which are relevant to the complaint.
- The AV will reduce the complaint to writing as soon as possible. The AV or designee will conduct the initial investigation and forward the results to the IACUC Chair. Complaints directed at LAR staff members will be forwarded to the IACUC Chair at the initiation of the investigation. At that time, the Chair may choose to conduct or reassign the investigation. If the AV is the subject of the complaint, the IACUC Chair will contact the IO, and the IO will appoint an appropriate person to investigate the allegations. If the complaint is against the Chair, the person receiving the complaint will contact the IO.
- A complainant is encouraged to cooperate with the investigation of the complaint and may be asked to provide a written report or appear before an investigating committee. A thorough investigation of a complaint may not be possible without adequate information.
- Investigation of and communications about the complaint shall be documented in writing and maintained in the office of the IACUC Coordinator. Such documentation may include, but is not limited to, information to or from the complainant, the person who is the subject of the complaint, the Principal Investigator (PI), IACUC, DLAR, IACUC Coordinator, and IO.
- No person reporting a violation of LAR and/or IACUC standards, procedures, rules and protocols shall be subjected to any retaliation.
- Likewise, no person who is the subject of, or related to a complaint shall undertake reprisals. Retaliations or reprisals in the context of IACUC procedures for handling complaints represent violations of IACUC standards that could result in loss of privileges and/or access to the facilities for animal care and use under the oversight of the UM IACUC. The potential for loss of privileges and/or access to LAR facilities applies to both animal users and LAR employees.
- The confidential nature of the complaint and violation procedures must be respected by all parties involved.
II. Initial Investigation by the Attending Veterinarian (AV)
- The AV will evaluate the complaint to determine whether there is sufficient information to investigate further. If mistreatment of animals is found, the AV will take all necessary action which may include temporary suspension of use of animals by any and all individuals involved in the reported complaint. The AV will submit the initial findings and recommendations to the IACUC Chair. The IACUC Chair and the AV will consider the initial findings and recommendations for further action (see section III).
- If the AV is the subject of the complaint, the IACUC chair will contact the IO, and the IO will appoint someone to investigate the allegation.
III. Action Following Initial Investigation
- No violation – no findings of mistreatment of animals or policy noncompliance.
- The IACUC chair will inform the complainant, the AV and the person who is the subject of the complaint in writing of the findings and recommendations and that no further action will be proposed, subject to IACUC review at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
- Minor violation – one instance of policy noncompliance but no inhumane treatment of animals.
- Examples of minor violations (this list is not intended to be exhaustive)
- Significant expansion or use of animal numbers or experiments under an existing IACUC approved protocol without proper amendments
- Improper entry into animal quarters
- Violation of SPF protocol or standard operating procedures
- The IACUC chair will inform the complainant and the person who is the subject of the complaint (and his/her direct supervisor or PI) in writing of all findings, recommendations, and any remediation (except for confidential personnel actions) required to be completed within a specified time frame. Such findings, recommendations and remediation (except for confidential personnel actions) are subject to IACUC review at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
- The IACUC Coordinator will be responsible for verifying that the remedies are completed within the established time frame.
- Major violation – repeated instances of policy noncompliance or one or more instances of inhumane treatment or neglect of animals.
- Examples of major violations (this list is not intended to be exhaustive)
- Use of animals without an IACUC approved protocol
- Disregard for animal pain and suffering
- Improper euthanasia
- Improper surgical techniques or experimental treatments
- Exposing humans or animals to substantial and unnecessary risks
- Knowingly providing false or inaccurate information to LAR or IACUC
- The IACUC Chair will determine if the IACUC should meet immediately or wait until the next scheduled monthly IACUC meeting to discuss the violation. A quorum of the IACUC must be present for the meeting.
- IACUC members or institutional employees with a conflict of interest shall immediately notify the committee and remove themselves from further participation in the matter.
- Examples of conflicts (this list is not intended to be exhaustive)
- Personal profit
- Collaboration with the investigator
- Supervisor for personnel directly implicated
- Other situations where judgment may be affected by affiliation.
- The IACUC will review the complaint and the initial findings and recommendations of the AV and obtain additional information as needed.
- The complainant may be requested to meet with the IACUC. If the complainant is unwilling or unable to make a personal appearance, the complainant may submit a written statement to the IACUC Chair prior to the meeting.
- The person who is the subject of the complaint will be provided a written description of the substance of the complaint and will be given an opportunity to meet with the IACUC to respond to the complaint. If the person who is the subject of the complaint is not the PI, the complaint will be forwarded to the PI responsible for the animal or protocol described in the complaint or the direct supervisor if a LAR employee is the subject of the complaint.
- The complainant and the person who is the subject of the complaint may have an advisor at the meeting with the IACUC. Advisors are present in an advisory capacity only and are not permitted to speak or present information directly to the IACUC.
- If the complainant and/or the person who is the subject of the complaint elect not to meet with the IACUC, the complaint will be reviewed on the basis of information available, and a recommendation will be made by the IACUC. No inference may be drawn against the complainant and/or person who is/are the subject of the complaint for failure to appear before the IACUC.
- At the meeting, the IACUC may call the AV or others as it deems necessary.
- When the IACUC concludes that all pertinent information has been received, the IACUC (after excluding all nonmembers) shall discuss, deliberate and prepare its findings and recommendations. By majority vote of those present, the IACUC will determine whether or not mistreatment of animals or policy noncompliance has occurred and make recommendations. If the findings and recommendations are not unanimous, minority opinions may be written and attached by those who differ with the majority’s findings and recommendations.
- The IACUC will then determine the final action to be recommended to the IO. The IACUC recommendation shall be immediately binding until such time as the IO has reviewed the recommendation. The actions of the IACUC apply to PIs, animal users, and LAR staff. IACUC action(s) may include, but is/are not limited to:
- A finding of no violation and/or the complaint was not substantiated.
- A reprimand to the person who is the subject of the complaint, which may include notice to the supervisor that if the same or similar circumstances which were the basis of the complaint are found to continue, this could result in suspension or complete revocation of the protocol approval under which animal(s) were obtained and/or may include suspension or complete revocation of the violator’s privileges to access LAR and animals.
- A suspension of the protocol for a stated period of time, or immediate revocation of the protocol approval.
- Permanently revoke all LAR access of the person who is the subject of the complaint.
- The IACUC Chair will report in writing, as appropriate, to the following individuals:
- The complainant;
- The person who is the subject of the complaint;
- The Departmental Chair or direct supervisor of the person who is the subject of the complaint; and
- The IO.
- The IO, after review and approval, will report the findings and actions taken by the IACUC to external organizations and/or government agencies as required.
IV. Record Keeping of Complaints and Violations
- The IACUC Coordinator will keep all records of complaints and violations on file.
- Separately, records of investigations, action plans, and outcomes will be kept in the appropriate investigator’s protocol file in the office of the IACUC Coordinator.