Guiding Principles for the Care and Use of Vertebrate Animals in Research and Training

The Guiding Principles for the Care and Use of Animals in Research and Teaching were adopted by the American Physiological Society in 1953. They are based upon humane care principles formulated by Walter B. Cannon in 1909. This revision was approved by the APS Council on October 15, 2014.

As noted in the International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving Animals [1], “The advancement of scientific knowledge is important for improvement of human and animal health and welfare, conservation of the environment, and the good of society. Animals play a vital role in these scientific activities and good animal welfare is integral to achieving scientific and educational goals.” The use of animals is also necessary to provide researchers and health professionals scientific, veterinary, and medical training that cannot be provided through other mechanisms.

Investigators should consider the appropriateness of the experimental procedures, the species of animals used, and number of animals required. Prospective approval of procedures on animal subjects should be obtained from an institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) or similar oversight body as required under the relevant regulatory authorities. This review should carefully consider the three principles of reduction, refinement, and replacement (3Rs) in the study design, focusing on how the scientific or educational goals can be accomplished with the least animal morbidity and mortality.

Only animals that are lawfully acquired shall be used in research and teaching. The procurement, transport, maintenance, and use of animals must in all cases comply with national and local laws and regulations. In the United States, animal research may be subject to the Animal Welfare Act, the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or other guidelines established by funding agencies. The PHS Policy requires institutions to use the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals [2] to develop and implement an institutional animal care and use program.

Analgesics and other techniques should be used to minimize discomfort and pain except when the intervention would compromise experimental goals. Appropriate anesthetics must be used to eliminate sensibility to pain during all surgical procedures. Drugs that produce muscle paralysis are not anesthetics. Such drugs should only be used when animals are under anesthesia and must never be used alone for surgical restraint.

If the study requires the death of an animal, humane endpoints should be identified, and an approved method of euthanasia stipulated in the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition [3] should be used. Death is acceptable as the endpoint of a study only where euthanasia would compromise scientific outcomes and an IACUC or similar oversight body has approved the exception.

Animals used in research and education must be housed, fed, and maintained in an appropriate setting for their species, condition, and the research to be conducted. They should also be provided appropriate veterinary care.

Personnel who care for or perform procedures on animals must receive training for these tasks. When students or trainees use animals in educational activities or for the advancement of science, such work shall be conducted under the direct supervision of an experienced teacher, investigator, or veterinarian.


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  2. Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (ILAR). Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2011. URL:
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