Page revised: August 2017
Inspections under the Animal Research Act 1985
The Animal Research Act 1985 (section 10) allows inspections to be carried out of Accredited Animal Research Establishments, Licensed Animal Suppliers and Animal Research Authority holders.
The aim of site inspections is to determine whether establishments and individuals are complying with the legislation. The Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes provides the criteria against which establishments and individuals are assessed. The range of items assessed includes: the membership, procedures and activities of the Animal Ethics Committee (AEC); animal care procedures; animal research procedures; and the physical facilities for housing and using animals. An evaluation is also made of the wellbeing of the animals held.
Routine visits are arranged in advance and usually take from 1 to 4 days per site. Large establishments with multiple sites can take up to 2 or more weeks to inspect.
Assessment of written material
Assessment begins before site inspection with an examination of written material provided by the establishment or individual. This includes lists of the research applications considered by the AEC and people issued with Animal Research Authorities, AEC minutes, the AEC annual report, and records of inspections conducted, together with information about the procedures of the committee and the institutional policy on the committee’s operation and decisions.
The examination is carried out by a NSW Department of Primary Industries Veterinary Inspector and the members of the Animal Research Review Panel who have been nominated to participate in the inspection. This pre-inspection evaluation allows likely problem areas to be identified and a general idea to be gained of how the establishment is operating.
Inspection of animals and facilities and meeting with the Animal Ethics Committee
On the day(s) of the inspection the inspection team initially looks at the animals and the facilities and talks with researchers and animal care staff. This examination includes assessing a broad range of items such as the physical condition of animals, animal care and management, and records related to the animals held.
After examining animals and facilities, the inspection team sits in on a scheduled meeting of the AEC, which allows it to view the operation of the AEC and the interaction of its members. At the end of the meeting, time is taken to discuss with the AEC issues arising from the inspection and to solicit feedback from AEC members. Additional important considerations include how the committee liaises with researchers and whether it has developed its own policies or guidelines for procedures of particular concern, such as blood collection techniques, methodology for monoclonal antibody production, and standards for wildlife transportation and the recognition and relief of pain.
A meeting is usually held with the head of the establishment at the beginning or end of the inspection. Any serious concerns are immediately referred to the establishment at the appropriate level.
As soon as possible after the inspection, a detailed report is prepared. The report covers an evaluation of the AEC and an assessment of the animals’ wellbeing, housing and holding, and their care and monitoring.
The reports are referred to a full meeting of the Panel. Once the Panel has considered the report, recommendations may arise for the Secretary to impose additional conditions on the Accreditation or licence. For example, a condition may be that appropriate post-operative procedures must be implemented.
In addition to conditions for Accreditation or licence (which are mandatory and must be implemented), the Panel report usually contains a number of recommendations—for example, for more effective operation of the AEC, for improvement of the management of research within the establishment, or for improvement of the animal facilities. Implementation of recommendations is not mandatory, but the establishment is required to advise on how it has responded to the recommendations. If the recommendations have not been implemented, then the reasons for this must be explained.
Inspection reports also provide an opportunity for the Panel to commend the institution, individual researchers or animal attendants for initiatives that raise the standards of the overall operation of the research facility or for techniques or facilities that enhance the welfare of research animals.
Response to inspection reports
Establishments are required to respond in writing, usually within 3 months, to the conditions and recommendations arising from the inspection. The response must involve the input of the Animal Ethics Committee. Responses are considered at meetings of the Panel, and an assessment is made of whether the responses are satisfactory. If necessary, further follow up with the establishment is carried out.
The Panel aims to carry out full routine inspections for all Accredited Establishments (with fixed animal facilities and/or AECs) approximately every 4 years, as well as unannounced visits by inspectors to follow up on problems. Announced and unannounced visits to look at specific aspects of operation may be carried out between full visits.