Animals in Research

The use of animals for research, teaching or testing at the University of Toronto is subject to ethical and legal requirements under Ontario’s Animals for Research Act, and the federal Canadian Council on Animal Care. The fewest number of animals are used when necessary under conditions that ensure their proper care and welfare. Any proposed use of animals is contingent upon the 3Rs (reduction, replacement and refinement) being carefully considered prior to protocol submission.

Oversight of the Animal Care and Use Program at the University of Toronto is through the University Animal Care Committee (UACC), which is charged with developing policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures in compliance with the CCAC. It also advises the VP, Research and Innovation and other senior administrators on matters related to animal research.

The protocol review/approval process at the University of Toronto involves preparation and submission of an Animal Use Protocol by the principal investigator/course director to the appropriate Local Animal Care Committee (LACC) for full committee review. There must be an approved protocol for all procedures involving the use of vertebrates and higher form invertebrates (e.g. cephalopods) being used by faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, research associates and all other personnel regardless of source of funding. Protocols for non-faculty members must be submitted under the name of the senior faculty member supervising the project.

Any animal research or teaching project administered by the University, which is to be conducted in the field or in a non-affiliated university facility, must be covered by an approved protocol.

Approved protocols are subject to Post-Approval Review to collaboratively support researchers in providing the highest level of care for research animals and adherence to regulatory requirements. The Post-Approval Review program includes ongoing support from veterinarians and animal facility staff, as well as scheduled on-site Quality Assurance visits.

All animal users must successfully complete all of the required modules of the Short Course on Animal Care prior to starting their work.  More information can be found here.

For answers to some frequently asked questions, please click here.

Researchers’ Guides to Regulations: Animals

Ensuring excellence in animal welfare and regulatory compliance is a priority. To facilitate awareness of regulatory and animal care requirements, the following guides summarize key information into easy reference points for researchers:

Researchers’ Guide to Regulations: Animals in Scientific Research
Researchers’ Guide to Regulations: Animals in Field Work

Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines

(To access SOPs and Guidelines off-campus, you must sign in with a valid UTORiD)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) provide detailed directions for performing common tasks in a consistent manner and in accordance with animal research regulations.  The Animal Use Protocol Form includes a section for listing SOPs relevant to the study.

Guidelines provide a general framework of regulatory requirements for specific aspects of animal research.

Peer Review of Scientific Merit

Internal Peer Review

If the proposed research has recently undergone external peer-review for scientific merit, the University Peer Review Committee will determine whether this existing external peer review is sufficient to exempt the protocol from internal review. For the protocol to be considered for exemption, the investigator must provide the Research Proposal section of the grant, along with the external reviews and the score sheet. The submitted documents will be considered by all Committee members.

On approval, the appropriate LACC is notified that the animal protocol can proceed. Should the research proposal be rejected, the investigator may be asked to clarify or appropriately modify the proposal. Should the proposal not be deemed to have scientific merit, the appropriate LACC is notified that the protocol cannot be approved.

Term of Peer Review

All animal research protocols must undergo peer review of scientific merit prior to the use of animals.

The University of Toronto’s procedures for internal review by the Peer Review Committee should be followed unless one of the exemptions below is applicable.

U of T procedures include submitting a research proposal for the project for internal peer review. This may be in the format of an existing proposal that has been submitted to the sponsor or the format of a CIHR/NSERC proposal. The investigator is asked to provide the sponsor’s name, title of the project and animal protocol title with the proposal. The proposal should include the objectives, hypotheses, methods and contributions of the project. Additional documents that could assist with peer review, such as recent external peer reviews from unsuccessful funding applications, may also be submitted.

On approval, the appropriate LACC is notified that the animal protocol can proceed. Should the research proposal be rejected, the investigator may be asked to clarify or appropriately modify the proposal. Should the proposal not be deemed to have scientific merit, the appropriate LACC is notified that the protocol cannot be approved.

Exemptions

External Peer Review Exemption

If the proposed research has recently undergone external peer-review for scientific merit, the University Peer Review Committee will determine whether this existing external peer review is sufficient to exempt the protocol from internal review. For the protocol to be considered for exemption, the investigator must provide the Research Proposal section of the grant, along with the external reviews and the score sheet. The submitted documents will be considered by all Committee members.

Other Exemptions

Other applicable exemptions include:

If the protocol fits any exemptions noted above, the investigator must provide documentation to the Office of Research Ethics that clearly supports the exemption request.

If the protocol does not fit any exemption above, the investigator must follow University of Toronto’s procedures for review by the Peer Review Committee.

Term of Peer Review

Approval of protocols through either exemption from internal review or internal peer review will be valid for a term of 3 years. There will be no extension of peer review beyond this term and a protocol will have to be resubmitted to the Committee after 3 years unless it qualifies for exemption as outlined in at the beginning of this document.

Use of Animals in Teaching

All teaching protocols require pedagogical merit review prior to ethics review.  This can currently be performed by a curriculum review committee or a faculty member who is not involved with the course. Use the Pedagogical Merit Review Form form. As of Spring, 2016, a new pedagogical merit review process will be instituted, and all proposals to use animals for teaching purposes will be reviewed by a specialized University-wide pedagogical merit review committee.

Field Work

Copies of any relevant permits required for field work should be uploaded to the MRAP system when a new protocol is submitted. If a permit will obtained after the protocol is approved, a copy of the permit should be attached to the protocol as an amendment once it is in place.

Submissions

All projects involving the use of animals must have the procedures approved in the following way:

As of May 27, 2015, the new My Research Animal Protocols (MRAP) system will be used for protocol submissions that are slated to be reviewed after July 1, 2015. Further information on the system can be found here.

Any trapping or wildlife licences must be reported on the protocol, as well as any radioisotope licence numbers.

Meeting dates and protocol submission deadlines for each committee can be found within MRAP.

Any requests for minor modifications to an approved project in progress (e.g. changes in number of animals to be used, location of experiment or changes in personnel) must be submitted as an amendment via MRAP. The changes may not be implemented until the ACC has provided approval for the change(s).

Other Regulatory Requirements

Biosafety Certificates

Please consult with the U of T Environment Health and Safety Biosafety Program to determine whether a biosafety certificate is required for your animal research.

Use of Controlled Drugs for Scientific Purposes

Ketamine, buprenorphine and sodium pentobarbital have been classified as controlled substances under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Read the full text of Health Canada’s Notice on the status of ketamine under the CDSA.

In order to use any controlled substances for research purposes, investigators must submit an application to the Health Canada’s Office of Controlled Substances. The application form and submission instructions can be found on Health Canada’s website.

If any modifications are proposed to an approved protocol that is linked to a valid controlled drug exemption, Health Canada should be consulted to determine if an amendment to the exemption is required. If confirmed, you will need to submit a completed application form with the changes indicated on the form.  At the top of the application form please select “Amendment of exemption” as your application type.  An original copy of the application form will need to be mailed to Health Canada. Please note that the following documents may be required to be submitted with your amendment:

Forms

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