APA calls for flexible implementation of new federal lab animal policy

Concerns about costs and interpretation of new Guide are raised.

By Jenna McGwin

The American Psychological Association (APA) has submitted a letter (PDF, 186KB) to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) responding to draft Position Statements aimed at assisting institutions with implementing the eighth edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

As reported previously, OLAW announced (PDF, 149KB) that the eighth edition of the Guide would be adopted as Public Health Service (PHS) policy, effective on January 1, 2012.  OLAW has regulatory oversight of all PHS-supported research, testing, and training that involves laboratory animals. The National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration are among the agencies that fall under the purview of PHS.

In its letter, APA repeated concerns that it had raised previously that the costs of implementing provisions of the new Guide could be substantial, with little evidence that they would lead to improvements in the welfare of laboratory animals.  APA also noted that many of the Position Statements appeared to interpret Guide provisions as de facto regulations, rather than as guidelines.  APA called for allowing institutions flexibility in implementing the Guide and for clarification of a number of points in the draft Position Statements. 

Many of APA’s comments overlap with those prepared by the National Association for Biomedical Research, a coalition of which APA is a member.  The comments also reflect the input of members of APA’s Committee on Animal Research and Ethics.

Psychologists may share questions or comments about the Guide with APA by contacting Jenna McGwin (phone: 202-336-6000).

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Jenna McGwin is Research Ethics Program Associate in the APA Research Ethics Office.