program’s requirements, which will vary by institution, species used, and the nature of the animal use. To be effective in providing clinical care, the veterinarian should be familiar with the species and various uses of animals in the institutional research, teaching, testing, or production programs and have access to medical and experimental treatment records.
There should be a timely and accurate method for communication of any abnormalities in or concerns about animal health, behavior, and well-being to the veterinarian or the veterinarian’s designee. The responsibility for communicating these concerns rests with all those involved with animal care and use. Reports should be triaged to ensure that animals most in need receive priority attention, and the veterinarian or veterinarian’s designee should perform an objective assessment of the animal(s) to determine an appropriate course of action.
Well-planned experiments with clearly delineated scientific and humane endpoints will help to ensure that a contingency plan is in place for problems that may arise during the study (see Chapter 2, Experimental and Humane Endpoints). For animals on research protocols, the veterinarian or veterinarian’s designee should make every effort to discuss any problems with the principal investigator or project director to jointly determine the most appropriate course of treatment or action. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) may be developed for recurrent health conditions to expedite treatment. Recurrent or significant problems involving experimental animal health should be communicated to the IACUC, and all treatments and outcomes should be documented (USDA 1997).
Procedures must be in place to provide for emergency veterinary care both during and outside of regularly scheduled hours. Such procedures must enable animal care and research staff to make timely reports of animal injury, illness, or death. A veterinarian or the veterinarian’s designee must be available to expeditiously assess the animal’s condition, treat the animal, investigate an unexpected death, or advise on euthanasia. In the case of a pressing health problem, if the responsible person (e.g., investigator) is not available or if the investigator and veterinary staff cannot reach consensus on treatment, the veterinarian must have the authority, delegated by senior administration (see Chapter 2, Institutional Official and Attending Veterinarian) and the IACUC, to treat the animal, remove it from the experiment, institute appropriate measures to relieve severe pain or distress, or perform euthanasia if necessary.