to provide a detailed Animal Welfare Assurance, similar to any research institution that receives NIH funds, also in keeping with PHS Policy. The RFP statement of work can also include specifics of number, age, breed, and size, and can be flexible in response to changing needs of NIH. Under the RFP, animals destined for research would immediately become the responsibility of NIH, an arrangement that would both ensure the optimal care and welfare of the animals and enhance NIH’s research through the use of healthier animals. Continuation of the contract would be subject to periodic (usually quarterly) review. The contractor’s failure to meet the statement of work, including accurate traceback documentation, could result in the immediate curtailment of support, in contrast to AWA/APHIS enforcement, which requires substantial effort to “build a case,” suspend a license, or correct violations. Thus, there is a far higher incentive for, and more rapid response to, compliance compared to contractors working with the existing Class B dealer system.
To reiterate, the RFP mechanism would not be equivalent to a Class B dealer, as animals acquired through the RFP would become NIH property and thus be subject to the U.S. Government Principles and PHS Policy (as well as the AWA). Furthermore, the RFP mechanism could allow coordination of scientific need with availability of specific types of animals from geographically diverse sources.
The Committee acknowledges that NIH will need supplemental funding to facilitate these options and, in the absence of specific allocations from Congress, anticipates that NIH will be reluctant to take on these responsibilities at a time when the NIH budget is uncertain. As noted throughout the report, the Class B dealer system is declining, and availability of random source animals from pounds and shelters is diminishing, independent of the decline of Class B dealers. Therefore, if NIH deems random source animals, or their qualities, necessary for research, it will need to explore and support alternatives before these animals become altogether unavailable from either Class B dealers or pounds and shelters.