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Institutional Animal Care and Use

Did you know? Fish and Wildlife researchers must comply with all regulations relating to the Animal Welfare Act.

Institutional Animal Care and Use

The Forest Service Research and Development Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) proForest Service employee holding a bat with a gloved hand.vides guidance to assist fish and wildlife researchers in complying with the Animal Welfare Act (U.S. Code, 7 U.S.C. Sections 2131-2159), and the U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals used in Testing, Research and Training.

  • Ensures the Forest Service is in compliance with all laws and regulations relating to animal welfare. 
  • Supports animal welfare policies consistent with high standards of science and natural resource stewardship.
  • Provides animal welfare education and training for employees working with vertebrate animals. 

All Forest Service researchers intending to use vertebrate animals in their research, teaching, and testing activities must submit proposals to the Institutional Animal Care and Use committee for review and approval before any research can begin.

The Forest Service is an officially registered federal research institution with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) since October 2015.


Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Forest Service utilize animals in research?

  •  Forest Service researchers sometimes capture, track, and/or take samples from fish and wildlife in order to better understand species, habitat use, and inform land management decisions.

What is the Animal Welfare Act? and Animal Welfare Act Regulations?

  • The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was first enacted in 1966 granting the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) authority to regulate the humane care and use of animals in research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition. In 1970 the act was amended to include all warm-blooded animals.  The AWA requires that each research facility establishes a committee with the following abilities:

    • Assess the proper care and treatment of animals and any practices involving pain or distress to the animals.
    • Perform periodic inspections of research facilities
    • Ensure compliance with AWA 
    • Represent society's concerns regarding the welfare of animals used in facilities
  • Read more about Animal Welfare

What are U.S. Government Principles?

  • The U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals in Testing, Research and Training (U.S. Gov't Principles) are a set of principles developed by the Interagency Research Animal Committee (IRAC) for government agencies to use in developing requirements for testing, research, or training procedures involving the use of vertebrate animals. View the U.S. Government Principles for more information.

How does the Animal Welfare Act define field studies? Are field studies subject to committee oversight?

  • The Animal Welfare Act defines fields studies as studies conducted on free-living wild animals in their natural habitat. Field studies that are not invasive, do not harm or alter the behavior of the animal under study are exempted from committee oversight. However, field studies that do not meet this description are subject to committee review and site inspection. This oversight also pertains to wildlife held in captivity for more than 12 hours. 

What criteria does the Forest Service Institutional Animal Care and Use committee use for reviewing proposals regarding the use of animals?

  • Proposals are reviewed to ensure research activities will be conducted in compliance with all applicable legal requirements including the Animal Welfare Act, U.S. Government Principles, and Forest Service policies such as the Code of Scientific Ethics. The Animal Welfare Act requires the committee to review proposals using the three "R's": replace, reduce and refine. Researchers are asked to consider replacing the use of animals with non-animal alternatives, reducing the number of animals used to the minimum needed to obtain scientifically valid results, and refining research methods to ensure animals experience the least possible amount of distress.


This page is intended to provide general information on the committee, and current animal welfare laws, regulations, policies and guidelines. For more detailed inquiries, questions or concerns please contact the committee directly by email. 

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