Complaints under the Animal Research Act 1985
The Animal Research Review Panel was established under the Animal Research Act to monitor the conduct of research and the supply of animals for research in New South Wales.
If you are concerned about the treatment of an animal:
- in an experiment
- as part of a teaching activity
- in a holding or breeding facility for laboratory animals.
You can make a complaint to the Panel. You can complain by phone, in person or in writing. Complaints can be formal or informal.
A formal complaint must be made in writing to the Director-General of NSW Department of Primary Industries and must be formally investigated.
What does the Panel do about informal complaints?
The Panel will generally suggest that you first take any complaint to the institution in question to have it resolved through internal grievance mechanisms. Your first point of contact should be the Chief Executive Officer of the institution, the Chair of the Animal Ethics Committee (AEC), or the AEC executive officer.
If you are unable or unwilling to do this, where attempts at internal resolution have proved unsuccessful or where the complaint is of a particularly serious and urgent nature, the Panel may start an investigation. Institutions are required to have grievances procedures to deal with complaints fairly.
All complaints will be treated with complete confidentiality. Where the Panel or its Complaints Subcommittee believes it would be helpful to an investigation it may ask you for permission to provide a copy of your written complaint to other people. You are under no obligation to give such permission.
Where the Panel decides to investigate a complaint, it will generally approach the institution or individual in question for their response to the allegations, including comment from the AEC.
Investigations may also include:
- interviews with the complainant, the subject of the complaint, witnesses, or the Animal Care and Ethics Committee members;
- unannounced inspection of the facility or animals in question;
- seeking expert advice on technical matters.
Complaints about animals in schools will be referred to the Schools Animal Ethics Committee for internal investigation.
Priority will be given to investigation of complaints which:
- are in writing;
- identify the complainant;
- are a new matter, not the subject of previous investigations;
- refer to actions occurring within the preceding 6 months or which are continuing;
- are well supported—for example with witnesses, records, times, dates, photographs;
- have serious implications for animal welfare, rather than being a technical breach;
- are made on one of the grounds specified in the Animal Research Act;
- are likely to lead to practical and measurable improvements to animal welfare, if investigated.
In general, the onus is on the complainant to provide support for the allegations contained in the complaint.
Complaints made anonymously because of a fear of retribution will not be given lower priority.
Trivial, vexatious or frivolous complaints will not be investigated. Nor will complaints about actions occurring more than 6 months before the date of the complaint, except in exceptional circumstances.
How do I make a formal complaint?
If you are aware of a particularly serious incident you may wish to make a formal complaint. Formal complaints are those which fulfil the criteria set out in the Act. They must be made in writing to the Director-General of NSW Department of Primary Industries and must be on one of the grounds identified in the Act. These are:
- that an establishment does not have a duly constituted animal care and ethics committee;
- that an individual has carried out research without an animal research authority;
- that research or the supply of animals for research has been carried out in contravention of the Code of Practice, in contravention of the directions of the supervising AEC or contrary to the authorisation contained in the licence or authority;
- that research has been carried out on animals not obtained from a licensed animal supplier;
- that an establishment or licence holder has failed to comply with a condition of accreditation or licence;
- that a licence holder is a disqualified individual or an establishment is a disqualified corporation.
You must specify the grounds for your complaint, sign it and lodge it at an office of NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Procedures for formal complaints are set out in the Animal Research Act. Copies of the Act are available from the Government Information Service, phone (02) 9743 7200. Copies of the relevant sections are available from the Animal Welfare inspectorial Office.
Formal complaints are referred to the Panel by the Director-General and the Panel must investigate the complaint and report back to the Director-General. The nature and depth of investigation is at the discretion of the Panel.
What happens if a complaint is proven?
The Panel will advise the Director-General if it believes a breach of the legislation has occurred. In the case of a formal complaint, the Panel must also advise him if the complaint is not supported.
The Director-General will take one of four actions:
- cancel the accreditation or licence;
- suspend the accreditation or licence for a specified period;
- caution or reprimand the research establishment or individual;
- dismiss the complaint.
The Director-General must advise the establishment or licence holder if he intends to cancel or suspend their accreditation or licence and give the reasons for his decision, and he must give them time to make a submission in defence’ which he will consider.
If you have made a formal complaint the Director-General must also advise you and the subject of the complaint, in writing, of his decision on the complaint.
If you have made an informal complaint the Panel will advise you of the outcome of its investigation.
Contact the Animal Welfare Inspectorial Office.