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 (PAR) to collaboratively support researchers in providing the highest level of care for research animals and adherence to regulatory requirements. The PAR 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:
(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.
All animal research projects must undergo peer review of scientific merit prior to the use of animals. In most cases this occurs during the grant review process, and further review is usually not required. However, studies that have not previously undergone peer review require this review to be performed before the project can be approved.
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.
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 applicable exemptions include:
- The funding agency from which funding is requested employs an accepted peer review process;
- A proposed project is deemed to be an extension of, or supplementary to, a peer reviewed project (maximum of 2 years allowed beyond the expiry date of a peer-reviewed grant), subject to LACC approval;
- Animals are used solely for teaching or diagnostic purposes (teaching projects will require pedagogical merit review);
- Pilot study (5 – 10 animals), subject to LACC approval. The proposed pilot study must be an extension of peer-reviewed research previously performed by the researcher.
If the protocol fits any exemptions noted above, the investigator must provide documentation to the Research Oversight and Compliance Office that clearly supports the exemption request.
If the protocol does not fit any exemption above, the investigator must follow the 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.
All teaching protocols require pedagogical merit review prior to ethics review. The internal pedagogical merit review process was instituted in early 2016, and all proposals to use animals (vertebrates, cephalopods) for teaching purposes must be reviewed by a specialized University-wide pedagogical merit review committee. Proposals to use animals in teaching must be submitted to the PMRC well in advance of the course start date to ensure that any committee concerns can be addressed before the course syllabus is finalized. Approval from the PMRC is required before an Animal Use Protocol for the course can be submitted to the Local Animal Care Committee.
The Terms of Reference for the University’s Pedagogical Merit Review Committee (PMRC) can be found here. To submit a course proposal for review, please download the Pedagogical Merit Review Form and submit the completed form AND course lab manual/materials to email@example.com.
A collection of scholarly articles related to the use of animals in teaching, examinations of alternative methods and related topics can be downloaded here (zip file).
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.
The My Research Animal Protocols (MRAP) system must be used for all protocol submissions apart from amendments to non-MRAP protocols. Further information on MRAP can be found here. The PDF protocol forms used prior to May 2015 are no longer accepted.
Any requests for amendments 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 magnitude of the proposed amendment will determine the timeline for review- major amendments (e.g. an increase in animal numbers >10%) require full committee review. The proposed changes may not be implemented until LACC approval has been granted.
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:
- A copy of the updated research protocol and/or amendments to the protocol (in vivo administration and in vitro utilization)
- A copy of any new protocols to be added to the exemption
- The approval of the updated/new protocol from the Animal Care Committee (in vivo administration)
- Appendix 1 (for importation – if applicable)
- If required, a justification for the increase in quantities
Animal facility-specific listservs have been created to improve the dissemination of relevant information to animal users, including Principal Investigators, postdoctoral fellows, technicians and students. The objective of the listservs is to keep users more informed and up-to-date on topics relating to animal care and use. Emails will be sent infrequently, and will only contain information of importance to most, if not all animal users. Listserv messages are intended to be a one-way communication tool for facility staff , and cannot be responded to by subscribers.
Examples of listserv uses:
- New/revised animal care and use regulations, guidelines, and SOPs;
- Facility-specific updates regarding procedures, services, maintenance disruptions, per diems, etc.
To sign up for a listserv, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the appropriate BOLD, ALL-CAPS text below included in the body of the email. You may sign up for whichever listservs are relevant to your research program, and you may unsubscribe at any time. To sign up for more than one listserv, insert the bolded listserv commands below into separate lines in the body of the email.
DCM/CCBR Listserv (DCM-USERS-L):
Ramsay Wright/CBTC Listerv (BSF-USERS-L):
UTM Listserv (UTM-USERS-L):
UTSC Listserv (UTSC-USERS-L):
To unsubscribe from a listserv, send a blank email to email@example.com with the bolded command below in the body of the email:
UNSUBSCRIBE [LISTNAME] (e.g. UNSUBSCRIBE DCM-USERS-L)
The University welcomes volunteers who are interested in serving as community representatives on one of our animal care committees. Candidates should have no current formal affiliation with the University, good communication skills, compassion for living beings and a commitment to upholding the high standards of ethical research involving animals at U of T. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.