Animal care and ethics

Legislation - The Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes

TheNSW Animal Research Act 1985 was introduced to protect the welfare of animals, by ensuring their use in research is always humane, considerate, responsible and justified. The Animal Research Regulation 2010 and the Australian Code for the Care and Use off Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Edition, 2013) are used with respect to the conduct of animal research and the supply of animals for use in connection with animal research.

Any organisation who uses or supplies vertebrate animals for research or teaching in NSW is affected by the Animal Research Act. The Act applies to all individuals, groups, institutions, organisations, schools and companies which use animals.

Organisations which conduct research with vertebrates must either (under the Animal Research Act, administered by the Animal Welfare Unit of NSW Department of Primary Industries [NSW DPI]) become an accredited research establishment or obtain an Animal Research Licence.

In addition, all research must be covered by a current Animal Research Authority. These are issued by approved Animal Care and Ethics Committees (ACECs) which in turn are administered by the Animal Welfare Unit and the Animal Research Review Panel of NSW DPI.

What is Animal Research?

Animal research includes the use of animals in any:

  • Procedure, test, inquiry, investigation or study
  • Experimental research
  • Electric shock or radiation studies
  • Collection of blood, tissue or other body samples
  • Field surveys
  • Surgical, medical, psychological, biological, chemical or physical treatment
  • Teaching
  • Production of biological material
  • Abnormal husbandry or dietary conditions
  • Product Testing
  • Diagnosis
  • Feeding trials

An 'animal' includes any vertebrate, other than a human being, that is any:

  • mammal
  • bird
  • reptile
  • amphibian
  • fish and cephalopods

NSW DPI (Fisheries) Animal Care and Ethics Committee

NSW DPI (Fisheries) is an Accredited Research Establishment. NSW DPI (Fisheries) researchers must apply to the NSW DPI (Fisheries) Animal Care & Ethics Committee (ACEC) for approval prior to commencing research.

NSW DPI (Fisheries) ACEC approves research with fish and cephalopods conducted by NSW DPI (Fisheries), Sydney Water and the Sydney Catchment Authority. The NSW DPI (Fisheries) ACEC's role is to advise, monitor, discipline and control animal research. The Committee ensures that all research conducted complies with the legislation and Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes. The Committee is responsible for monitoring research within the department, including inspections of animals and facilities.

The Committee must consider and evaluate requests to conduct research, on the basis of the researchers' responses to a comprehensive set of questions, including the justification for the research; its likely impact on the animals; and procedures for preventing or alleviating pain or distress. The NSW DPI (Fisheries) ACEC has the power to stop inappropriate research and to discipline researchers by withdrawing their research approvals. They can require that adequate care, including emergency care, is provided. They also provide guidance and support to researchers on matters relevant to animal welfare, through preparation of guidelines and dissemination of relevant scientific literature.

ACEC Membership

The membership and duties of ACECs are laid down in the Animal Research Regulation 2010. The requirements are based on the Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, which also provides the benchmark against which the committee judge research, when the research is proposed and carried out. The categories are:

  • A veterinarian or person with similar expertise relevant to the species being studied
  • An animal researcher
  • An animal welfare representative who is not involved with the establishment or with animal research or supply
  • An independent person who is not a researcher and preferably is not employed by the establishment

More than one person may be appointed to each category. The Committee also has a Chairperson and Executive Officer.

Procedures of ACECs

The NSW DPI (Fisheries) ACEC conducts quarterly meetings to consider issues associated with animal research or teaching. The Committee must:

  • Review, discuss, approve, reject or revoke proposals to perform animal research or teaching
  • Document their consideration of proposals
  • Have guidelines on procedures for animal research or teaching
  • Inspect animals and facilities used in research or teaching

Animal Researchers

Investigators (researchers) are ultimately responsible for the care, management and well-being of their research animals. People working within NSW DPI in any role, including as: an employee, a consultant, a post graduate student or an animal attendant; who wish to use animals in research must hold an Animal Research Authority issued by NSW DPI (Fisheries).

Documentation of Research

All proposals to undertake animal research must be submitted in writing to the NSW DPI (Fisheries) ACEC and approved before the research is commenced. Full information should be provided of:

  • The justification for the use of animals
  • The justification for the number and species of animals used
  • The procedures to be used
  • The expected impact on the welfare of the animals and the methods which will be used to avoid and alleviate these

Investigators must keep detailed records of the health and experimental use of animals in their charge. The records may be examined at any time by the ACEC or inspectors of the Animal Welfare Unit, NSW DPI.

Further Information

See also - A Guide to Acceptable Procedures and Practices for Aquaculture and Fisheries Research (PDF, 577.62 KB)