Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)


Both the federal Animal Welfare Act, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Public Health Service Policy on the Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, overseen by the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), mandate the existence of an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) at every research institution that is registered with the USDA and holds an Assurance from OLAW. An Assurance is certification that the institution is in compliance with, or that it will abide by, a particular requirement if awarded a Federal grant.

The IACUC is charged to oversee the use of vertebrate animals in research and to ensure that care and use of the animals is ethical and humane. This oversight is achieved in multiple ways including 1) initial and ongoing review and approval of all activities involving animals (usually by way of written animal use protocols submitted for review by investigators), 2) semiannual inspection of all areas where animals are housed or undergo procedures, and 3) semiannual review of the overall institutional program of animal care. Deficiencies found during reviews and inspections must by law be resolved. If not, an institution can forfeit the ability to use animals and lose all federal funding for animal research.

The use of living animals for research, teaching, and outreach requires careful consideration of both ethics and study design. In carrying out their responsibilities, the members of the IACUCs must consider if the proposed use of animals is scientifically sound, if the animals’ experiences will be as pain- and distress-free as possible, and if the use of the animals addresses an important societal question or need. Federal regulations, veterinary standards of care, campus policies, and facility standard operating procedures are used by the IACUCs in their evaluations of animal use.

IACUCs at UW–Madison

While most research institutions have one IACUC, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has four that oversee the very large and active teaching, research, and outreach programs involving vertebrate animals. Therefore, on our campus the IACUCs are often referred to as ACUCs—Animal Care and Use Committees—instead of IACUCs. They are:

ACAPAC All Campus Animal Planning and Advisory Committee

This advisory committee is involved in oversight of the UW–Madison animal program. It advises the Institutional Official on matters related to oversight of the ethical and humane use of animals in all university research, teaching, and outreach activities. The ACAPAC membership includes the Attending Veterinarian for the campus, the chairs of the school and college ACUCs, researchers with active animal programs, animal facility managers, and representatives of UW Legal Services. Subject matter experts are invited to participate in ACAPAC activities as needed. Learn more about the ACAPAC's charge and see its meeting calendar.

What all PIs need to know

  • All animal care and use protocols are submitted for review through, and administered by, the Research Animal Resources and Compliance IACUC office, no matter which of the UW–Madison IACUCs has oversight.
  • The UW–Madison animal care and use protocol form is the same for all principal investigators, regardless of department, school, college, or IACUC.
  • PIs are expected to follow all policies established under the authority of the Institutional Official and the Attending Veterinarian regardless of school or college. Policies established under the authority of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees apply either universally or to the school or college Committee that established them. See policies.
  • Incoming investigators may complete and submit a UW–Madison animal protocol prior to arriving on campus.
  • UW–Madison allows multiple grants to be listed on a single animal use protocol. Similarly, a single grant can be listed on multiple protocols.
  • All PHS-funded grants must be assessed for congruency with respective animal protocol(s). This is conducted upon request in the IACUC office by a congruence specialist.
  • All new and three-year renewal protocol applications must be pre-reviewed by a RARC veterinarian before they can be submitted to the ACUC for review and approval. This review is automatically included in the online ARROW system for protocol application and review. Please allow two weeks for veterinary pre-review.
  • Specific information regarding animal facility operations such as space requirements/availability, animal shipping and quarantine, and per diem rates are facility-specific and are not handled centrally by RARC. Investigators should contact their hiring department, school, or college, or work with the research animal veterinary staff on facility-specific questions.
  • IACUC members must inspect all areas where animals are housed or undergo procedures (including euthanasia) every six months. These semiannual inspections are required by law to maintain University compliance with applicable regulations for research animal care and funding purposes. The RARC IACUC office coordinates these inspections. For more information on inspections, click "Semiannual Inspections" in the left navigation area.
  • UW–Madison's animal program training policy requires that everyone named as staff on an animal protocol—regardless of experience—must complete basic training on animal-use rules and regulations, and training in occupational safety, before IACUC approval is released. Much of the training is available online, accessible with a UW-issued NetID. Animal protocols may be submitted for IACUC review before training requirements have been fulfilled.
  • Biosafety protocols are administered at the UW Office of Biological Safety, not at RARC.
  • Radiation approval and chemical hygiene plan review are handled at the Division of Facilities Planning & Management, not at RARC.