Rockville, Md. -- Institutions that use animals in research, teaching or testing can now receive an expert, independent evaluation of their animal care and use programs through AAALAC International (the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International). The new service is called a "Program Status Evaluation," and allows institutions to better assess the quality of all aspects of their animal research programs, including animal husbandry, veterinary care, institutional policies, and the facilities where animals are housed and used.
Because good science demands quality animal care, the evaluation will not only promote the well-being of laboratory animals, it will help validate the results of research using animals. It can also serve as the first step toward achieving AAALAC Accreditation, a distinction earned by more than 620 universities, companies, hospitals and other research facilities in 10 countries that have achieved excellence in animal care and use.
A Program Status Evaluation allows institutions to determine where they stand in terms of meeting AAALAC standards, which are based on the principles outlined in the widely-recognized Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council, 1996). The evaluation also helps institutions gain a better understanding of the accreditation process before they officially apply.
Although entirely separate from AAALAC's traditional accreditation program, a Program Status Evaluation is similar in procedure. To participate, institutions request an application package from the AAALAC office. The application process includes developing a comprehensive "Program Description" of the institution's entire animal care and use operation. This involves conducting an intensive self-assessment which identifies strengths and weaknesses, raises internal awareness of issues surrounding animal well-being, and helps institutions understand exactly what is involved in achieving accreditation.
After the application form and Program Description are completed and returned to the AAALAC office, an on-site evaluation is scheduled. Evaluation teams are led by AAALAC Associate Director, Kathryn A. Bayne, M.S., Ph.D., D.V.M., a Diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. Teams also include former members of AAALAC's Council on Accreditation—individuals who are expert in the fields of veterinary medicine, laboratory animal science or animal research, and are committed to humane animal care and use in science. The on-site evaluation team provides specific guidance on how to improve deficient program areas. Recommendations are provided in writing after the visit.
"Introducing the on-site Program Status Evaluation service is a natural extension of AAALAC's mission. We have received numerous requests for such a service, particularly from institutions outside of the United States. These institutions may be less familiar with AAALAC's accreditation program, and are perhaps uncertain about how their program compares with AAALAC standards. We hope the evaluation service will help more institutions reach accreditable levels, and encourage them to go through the formal process," said John Miller, D.V.M., executive director of AAALAC International.
Institutions that complete the Program Status Evaluation process and find they meet AAALAC standards can resubmit an updated Program Description for entry into the accreditation program. A new team of current Council members and consultants will then conduct the actual accreditation site visit. The team's evaluation will be reviewed and deliberated by the full Council, which will determine official accreditation status.
Fees for Program Status Evaluations are based on the direct cost of conducting the site visit and administrative expenses. Those that complete the Program Status Evaluation and decide to pursue accreditation will be charged a reduced application fee.
To receive more information on AAALAC's Program Status Evaluation service or an application, call 800/926-0066, 301/231-5353 or send e-mail to [email protected]
Established in 1965, AAALAC International is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through a voluntary accreditation program and evaluation service. Institutions seeking accreditation receive independent, expert assessments of their animal care and use programs. Those that meet or exceed applicable standards are awarded accreditation. Attaining and maintaining accreditation demonstrates a commitment to the responsible and ethical treatment of animals used in research, teaching and testing. More information on AAALAC International and its accreditation program and evaluation service can be found on AAALAC's Web site at http://www.aaalac.org, or by calling 800/926-0066 or 301/231-5353.
The above story is based on materials provided by AAALAC International. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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