Frequently Asked Questions: Campus Carry Exclusion Zones – Animal Care Areas

In the state of Texas, recently-enacted legislation concerning the carrying of concealed weapons by licensed individuals goes into effect Aug. 1, 2016. Comprehensive information on this subject can be found at this URL: https://campuscarry.utexas.edu.

One of the exclusion policies that has been put into place at UT-Austin restricts the carrying of weapons in certain animal care and use areas for reasons of safety. The following questions and answers explain the implementation of this exclusion. For additional information, contact Dr. Glen Otto, ARC Director.

Handbook of Operating Procedures 8-1060, "Campus Concealed Carry” states: "The concealed carry of handguns is prohibited in animal-research facilities and other animal-care and animal-use locations in which protocols regulating entrance and exit ways create a risk that a concealed handgun will accidentally discharge, be contaminated, or be separated from a license holder."

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What safety concerns led these areas to be names as exclusion zones?

Animal research facilities are secured, defined areas that often have strict protocols for entering and exiting, including requirements for wearing dedicated or disposable garments and waterproof gloves. Protective measures are also in place to minimize cross-contamination involving coats/jackets, other street clothing and/or personal possessions by requiring these to be removed and stored. Compliance with these requirements by someone carrying a concealed handgun may have the effect of increasing the risk of its accidental discharge, contamination, or unanticipated separation from the license holder.

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What types of research areas are included in this exclusion?

The term “animal-research facility” is defined for these purposes as a specialized group of rooms that are managed as a defined unit dedicated to animal housing and use. They include holding, procedure and/or support rooms and are located behind a defined, secure perimeter with access via anterooms or service hallways. This category for exclusion includes the centrally-managed animal facilities and a small number of other locations where a locked suite includes permanent animal holding and dedicated support rooms.

In addition, there are numerous rooms outside of the core animal facilities that are solely dedicated to the housing and care of research animals on a permanent basis. These rooms are widely interspersed among various research buildings and can be readily identified because there is a formal inspection and approval process for animal holding areas. Cross-contamination risks need to be avoided in these areas as well, so extraneous clothing and items such as coats, backpacks, purses, etc. are not brought in. Rooms considered for exclusion in this way must be dedicated to vertebrate animal housing and have a locked door to control access.

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I bring animals to my laboratory? Doesn’t that make it an “animal-use location” that should be covered by this policy?

A large percentage of animal use locations are included within the animal facilities and animal housing areas defined above. However, there is a wide variety of other campus locations where animals may be taken for research procedures. Animal use in these areas is variable, transient, and often only involves a small portion of the entire room or connected rooms. Entry/exit procedures that would create a concern that the license holder will be separated from a concealed handgun are generally not in place, and the fact that there may be animals present does not significantly increase the risk of accidental discharge. For this reason, blanket exclusion from these areas is not indicated. If circumstances result in specific additional risks being identified in the future, these could be considered for exclusion on a case-by-case basis following the appeal procedures in place.

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Although a procedure my lab performs on animals is performed in a wet lab area outside of an animal facility or permanent holding room, when that procedure is being performed I require that the researchers remove street clothes and change into surgical scrubs. Should this area be included as an exclusion area?

No, this situation doesn't justify a broad, continuous exclusion of the laboratory space, but instead can be dealt with by providing training and/or written procedures to personnel that make it clear that disrobing is required. Concealed-carry license holders are required to carry their handguns on or about their person at all times. Handgun storage is not permitted in research laboratories, so license holders must plan properly and not bring their gun into the building if they will be performing tasks that would require separation or storage. This situation is very similar to activities that occur in other campus areas that do not have a global exclusion in place, such as entering a clean room for microelectronic research or changing into gym clothes for recreational exercise.

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