The events concerning the welfare of laboratory animals shared with the media by the organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) from January 2014 through today, March 6, 2014 are not current. SAEN obtained records through Freedom of Information Act requests of events either self-reported by institutions or investigated by the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) for noncompliance with PHS Policy. These events have been managed by the institutions as required by the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/references/phspol.htm), reviewed by the OLAW, and the cases are closed. These institutions are in good standing with OLAW and in keeping with the requirement for self-reporting, will report to OLAW any noncompliance with the relevant policies and regulations involving research animals, should they arise.
NIH has an ethical and legal obligation to ensure the welfare of and minimize risks for all who participate in NIH-funded research. This includes both humans and animals. All animals used in NIH-funded research are protected by laws, regulations, and policies to ensure the smallest possible number of subjects and the greatest commitment to their welfare. Institutions receiving funds from the Public Health Service (PHS) must conduct research in accordance with the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/references/phspol.htm). Fulfilling these protections is a collaborative effort between NIH, federally-supported scientific investigators, and research institutions.
NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) provides oversight of all NIH-supported research activities that involve animals. OLAW monitors NIH-funded institutions to ensure their compliance with animal welfare laws and policies. OLAW also investigates all allegations concerning animal welfare and appropriate animal care in NIH-funded studies. NIH-funded institutions must report promptly to OLAW any violation of the PHS Policy. OLAW considers these reports and requires the institution to make appropriate corrections and to prevent further violations. OLAW, in evaluating an institution's self-reports, reviews the institution's animal care and use program and assesses the effectiveness of the corrective actions taken by the institution. The law requires that institutions be provided a reasonable opportunity to take corrective action before a grant or contract is suspended or terminated.
A Memorandum of Understanding between USDA and NIH details their agreement to exchange information concerning significant adverse findings in animal care and use at organizations they investigate, inspect, or site-visit, and the actions taken by the agency in response to the findings (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/references/finalmou.htm). This enables the agencies to coordinate evaluations thus reducing regulatory burden and redundancy. USDA and OLAW work cooperatively to exchange information found during investigations.
Because the two agencies have different authorities, not every self-reported incident from an institution to OLAW equates to noncompliance that would be shared with USDA. Also, USDA determines noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Regulations during annual facility inspections and concurrent record review. As such, awareness of a noncompliant incident may not occur simultaneously at both oversight agencies. USDA may also conduct targeted inspections in response to a complaint.
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