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New model protocol form for wildlife research now available

By Ellen Paul


Outdoor aviary, Ketterson Lab (Kent Farm Bird Observatory, Indiana University). Photo credit: N. Gerlach
Ornithological Council and American Society of Mammalogists develop model protocol form for wildlife research...released in beta for feedback from researchers, animal care and use committee members, institutional officials, and others, this form is designed specifically for wildlife research conducted either in the field or in captivity. First question: Is this protocol even required?

UPDATE 13 Feb 2014: Slightly modified document; changes made in response to comments from the staff of the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. Note that OLAW will hold a webinar about this model protocol on 20 March 2014 at 12:30 Eastern. Be sure to notify your IACUC members!
UPDATE 13 Feb 2014: Slightly modified document; changes made in response to comments from the staff of the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare. Note that OLAW will hold a webinar about this model protocol on 20 March 2014 at 12:30 Eastern. Be sure to notify your IACUC members!


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The Ornithological Council and the American Society of Mammalogists have developed a protocol form designed specifically for wildlife research conducted either in the field or in captivity. We recognized a need for this form as a result of feedback from the many researchers, institutional officials, animal care and use committee members, and attending veterinarians who comply with or implement the Animal Welfare Act compliance for studies of wildlife. Most institutions use a single form with few, if any, questions relevant to wildlife research, including the key question: "Is this project even covered under the Animal Welfare Act or the Public Health Service Policy?"

Critical review of protocols involving wildlife research requires the use of appropriate standards. Standards and protocol forms not developed for wild animals cover many topics not pertinent to wildlife studies and omit topics central to such work. In order to conduct a more biologically appropriate review and achieve a greater level of meaningful welfare for the study animals IACUCs should ensure that protocol forms, standards, and reference materials are appropriate for the type of study under consideration.

Given that there are two overlapping laws, administered by two different agencies, one (APHIS) with a set of implementing regulations and the other (PHS) with a non-regulatory but mandatory policy, we took care to construct this form in a manner that will guide the IACUC and the researcher to the pertinent laws and standards.

A number of participants who attended the October 2011 conference in Albuquerque organized by the OC and the ASM volunteered to help create this form and suggested key topics and specific questions as well as overall approach. After reviewing numerous forms that were already in use, we were fortunate to be given a template created by John Martin of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, later modified by John Bryan, DVM, a wildlife veterinarian with the National Park Service. After considerable review and revision, we are making this form available to IACUCs and researchers in a beta version, though it is fully useable as is. It is our hope that institutions and researchers will use this form, and that as they do so, they will take the time to suggest changes to us so that we can refine it to better meet the needs of both the researchers and the IACUCs. With this additional feedback from the field-testing, we hope to have a final version completed by the end of 2014.

For institutions without a protocol designed specifically for studies involving wildlife, this document can serve as a stand-alone form. Institutions that already have a protocol form designed for wildlife may incorporate any portions of the form to complement their existing document.

Institutions may also modify the form as you see fit, but we encourage them to let us know what changes they have made and why, as this will help us to improve the final product. We suggest that it would be most efficient to use SmartForms or other electronic options that automatically bypass questions that do not require additional input when the initial question was answered with a “no” or “not applicable.” Doing so will enable the researcher to move efficiently through the form.

We also encourage institutions to take full advantage of the additional resources available to them when assessing wildlife protocols. These peer-reviewed documents include the taxon specific guidelines published by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the American Society of Mammalogists, and the Ornithological Council. These documents were formally recognized by NSF in December 2012 as appropriate standards for NSF funded research conducted on wild vertebrates and were also recognized by AAALAC International as Reference Resources.

Development of this model protocol was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IOS 113273. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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