Thank you for visiting the University of Pennsylvania's website for the Institutional Animal Use and Care Committee (IACUC) and the Office of Animal Welfare (OAW). Below is some general information about animal research at Penn for non-affiliated visitors. For security purposes, most of the website is restricted to Penn employees and students. If you have specific questions concerning the animal program, you can contact OAW as indicated on the 'Contact' page (click on the link in the top menu).

The Importance of Animal Research

Animal research is vital to the discovery of biological processes and the development of treatments for diseases to eliminate them or ease suffering, and improve overall quality of life. Current technology is, unfortunately, not yet advanced enough to fully replicate the complex biological systems of a living being. Even when non-living systems can be used to develop new ideas and treatments, it is usually necessary to test them in live animals to further examine their effectiveness and, importantly, verify their safety.

It is the mission of the animal care and use program at Penn to oversee all research, teaching, and testing using live animals, and to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are followed. This is accomplished through the actions of various entities and departments, as described below. It is important to note that it is emphasized to all animal researchers at Penn that their use of animals, which effectively serve as experimental surrogates for human beings, is a privilege granted by society that must be taken very seriously, as it could be revoked at any time. All researchers are therefore trained and made aware of their responsibility (both ethical and legal) to treat their research animals humanely, and to reduce pain and distress in them as much as possible. Many, if not most or all, of these researchers look forward to the day when animals no longer need to be used for biomedical research, teaching, and testing. Until that day comes, the animal program at Penn will continue to ensure that our animal heroes are given the best possible care. This not only benefits the animals, but enhances the quality of the research and the end results, which ultimately improve the quality of life not only for humans, but also their animal companions. 

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of animal research, you are encouraged to visit the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) and the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR). Links to their websites can be found on the 'Important IACUC Links' page of this site.

Institutional Certifications

The University of Pennsylvania has an approved Animal Welfare Assurance by the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and is registered as a research facility with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Perelman School Of Medicine (PSOM), the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM), the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS), the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the School of Nursing (SON), and the School of Dental Medicine (SODM) are all fully accredited by AAALAC International.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

The IACUC, appointed by the Institutional Official (IO), who at Penn is the Vice Provost for Research, is responsible for making sure that all federal laws, regulations, and policies are followed by those who are using animals for research, teaching, or testing. Thus, at Penn, all course work and research projects involving vertebrate animals be reviewed and approved by the IACUC. This is generally accomplished through the submission of an animal use protocol by the investigator, which describes the proposed work, including its benefit to society, the personnel involved and their training, methods for reducing or eliminating pain and distress, and searches for alternatives to reduce or eliminate the need to use animals or painful / distressful procedures.

The important functions of the IACUC for performing its responsibilities are:

  • Animal Protocols: Review and approving animal use protocols submitted by principal investigators (PI) prior to work being conducted. Protocols are valid for three years from the date of approval, at which time they must be updated by the PI and re-reviewed by the IACUC if the animal work will continue. The IACUC can suspend animal activities if they are not in accordance with regulations.
  • Semiannual Program Review / Inspection: Monitor the animal program by conducting thorough program reviews and performing site visits of animal care and use areas, including animal housing facilities, satellite areas, and research laboratories.
  • Animal Program and Welfare Oversight: Conduct investigations into non-compliant activities and animal welfare allegations, and report findings to the IO and appropriate regulatory bodies, as necessary. The IACUC also makes recommendations to the IO regarding the animal program.

The IACUC meets monthly, and has several subcommittees that meet regularly to discuss specialized topics, including compliance, veterinary care, training, and satellite housing. Every six months, the IACUC performs a full review of the animal program, including an inspection of all animal facilities and study areas.

Office of Animal Welfare (OAW)

The Office of Animal Welfare supports the functions of the IACUC and the research community through the following activities:

  • Animal Protocols: Perform administrative reviews of protocols describing proposed animal research, route submissions to appropriate reviewers, and verify training.
  • Semiannual Program Review / Inspection: Coordinate inspections, compile results, and follow-up on needed resolutions, and summarize the program review.
  • Animal Program and Welfare Oversight: Perform post-approval monitoring (PAM), coordinate investigations into animal welfare allegations, and provide reports of these to the IACUC.
  • IACUC Administrative Support: Maintain IACUC meeting minutes and deliberations, maintain ARIES and IACUC / OAW websites, and facilitate training for IACUC members.
  • Institutional Support: Submit required reports to and liaise with federal agencies and regulatory bodies, report non-compliant activities to these agencies, coordinate external inspections by them, and maintain institutional certifications.

University Laboratory Animal Resources (ULAR)

ULAR, a separate department from OAW, is responsible for the procurement, care, and use of all University-owned animals used for teaching, research, and testing as approved by the IACUC and as mandated by federal law and regulations. The Director of ULAR serves as the Attending Veterinarian (AV) for Penn's research and teaching animals. ULAR Veterinarians, who act as designees of the AV and include specialists in laboratory animal medicine, internal medicine, and veterinary pathology, participate on the IACUC to ensure animal welfare and to oversee the use of animals in research and teaching.

To fulfill its responsibilities, ULAR provides or has oversight for the provision of husbandry and veterinary medical care for all University-owned animals. It provides professional and technical consultation, assistance, and training to administrators, researchers, and their staff members on the humane, proper, and efficient use of animals, the design of new and renovated animal housing areas, and interaction with the public on animal use in biomedical research. It procures all animals used by the University, maintains programs to sustain animal health and minimize any pain or distress that may be experienced by research animals, and maintains the legally required records pertaining to the procurement and use of animals.

Additional Information

You can find links to various regulatory agencies, animal welfare organizations, and information on animal research on the 'Important IACUC Links' page.