Certain animals used for research are no longer allowed to be transported in personal vehicles around campus, among other policy changes concerning the treatment of research animals at Ohio State.
The animals are used for research ranging from studying diabetes in cats and monkeys to looking at how diseases progress in various animals.
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, housed within the Office of Responsible Research Practices at OSU, is responsible for updating these policies and has revised five since the beginning of December.
Jeff Grabmeier, senior director of research and innovation communications at OSU, said the goal of the IACUC is to protect the research animals.
“The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee is composed of faculty members, staff members and institutional veterinarians who review research protocols to ensure the safety and welfare of research animals at Ohio State, inspect facilities where animals are housed to ensure that they meet regulatory standards and make policies that govern the care and use of research animals across the institution,” Grabmeier said in an email.
Updates made to the “Movement of Animals Outside the Animal Housing Location” policy Jan. 13 ban the transportation of animals classified as ABSL-2 or higher in personal vehicles around campus.
ABSL-2 refers to Animal Biosafety Level 2, a classification indicating that the animal has been “infected with agents associated with human disease and pose moderate hazards to personnel and the environment,” according to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Derek Grossman, a third-year in animal sciences, said he approves of the policy updates.
“If it directly benefits the safety of the animals and people on campus, then it’s a good thing,” said Grossman, who worked on feline diabetes research with the College of Veterinary Medicine last summer.
“Cats would get stressed because they had to get blood taken a lot and their glucose levels would spike because of this. My job was to make sure during procedures that they were calm and not moving around. If the needle is in the arm and they move or jerk, they could nick a vein,” Grossman said.
Grossman said he was pleased with the treatment of the research cats.
“The cages weren’t small, they had a lot of room to walk around. They had a litter box and toys. The rest of the day when they weren’t in a procedure room, they were out in open rooms with all sorts of climbing area and toys,” Grossman said.
Grossman said his experience altered his view on research animal care.
“With cats, you can tell exactly how they’re acting and (the cats he worked with) were never upset. I thought animals in research weren’t supposed to be enjoying it but these cats were honestly treated just as well, if not better, than certain house cats,” Grossman said.
After the trial, the cats were given homes, Grossman said.
“A few of the residents from vet school took some, and the others were put up for adoption,” he said.
Not all research animals, however, are so lucky.
Olivia Stephenson, third-year in animal sciences and publicity chair for OSU’s Pre-Veterinary Medical Association Club, said she has worked with two rhesus macaque monkeys for diabetes research in the Department of Surgery for the past year.
“I take their blood glucose. I prick them with a needle, draw their blood and put it on a reader that tells you what their blood sugar is. Then I give them the appropriate dose of insulin and I feed them,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson said overall, she thinks the living conditions of the monkeys, who are intentionally made diabetic, are satisfactory. She wishes, though, they had space outside of their cages to use.
“They get toys, like dog toys, but they don’t get huge rooms which is what I wish (the monkeys had). They’re in the cages 24/7 and they don’t come out. When I first went (and saw this), I was really sad,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson said she understands the need for confinement though.
“I would like for them to get better treatment, but that would compromise our research. I think they treat them as well as they can, given the circumstances. Mine get to watch Disney movies every day,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson said she would like to see places for monkeys to go after the research is over, just as cats used for research have.
“With monkeys, you can’t have someone adopt them. Basically when we’re done with the study, they have to die because no sanctuaries will take care of them with diabetes. I would like to see a sanctuary (where) they can go to be happy,” Stephenson said.
Other recently updated policies include “Housing Requirements for Animals,” “Validate the Effectiveness of Manual Sanitation,” “CO2 Euthanasia of Rodents including Guinea Pigs” and “Rodent Surgery,” all of which were revised Dec. 20, according to the ORRP website.
Policies are changed fairly regularly, Grabmeier said.
“The IACUC regularly monitors federal and international groups that issue regulations and recommendations regarding the care and use of research animals. Whenever these groups change their policies, the IACUC determines if policies at Ohio State should change as a result,” Grabmeier said.
Federal and international regulations are not the only source of updates, said Jan Weisenberger, senior associate vice president in the OSU Office of Research, in an email Grabmeier sent to The Lantern.
“Researchers can suggest a change to a policy at any time based on their working knowledge. IACUC reviews all policies at least every three years,” Weisenberger said.
Weisenberger said what happens to animals once the experiment is over depends on research protocol.
“In some cases, animals are humanely euthanized so that researchers can study their tissues or organs to provide information on how diseases progress and the effectiveness of possible treatments,” Weisenberger said.
Stephenson said it’s sad to think about the lives of the monkeys used in research.
“They were born and taught the proper way to stand so we can inject their insulin. I wish they could experience what it’s like to live freely,” she said.