Commitment to Humane Care of Animals

The University of Texas at Austin’s Commitment to Responsible Use of Animals in Research

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) is committed to the humane care and use of animals in our research. Not only has animal research benefited humans by increasing our understanding of disease, it also has advanced veterinary care that benefits our pets. For researchers to build on scientific achievements of the past and continue to find new answers for society’s biggest problems, animal research remains a vital component of research. Researchers at UT understand that good science goes hand-in-hand with good animal welfare. The UT research community shares the public interest in the humane and ethical treatment of animals in research and have developed a comprehensive program to promote this interest.

UT invests substantial resources to ensure that the welfare of animals, used in its research programs, remains a priority. UT has been voluntarily accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) since 2001. This accreditation organization helps UT’s animal research program to meet and exceed national standards for the care and use of animals.

When considering any use of animals in research, UT utilizes three important concepts known widely as the “Three R’s”: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. The purpose of these concepts is to minimize animal use and pain or distress, while achieving critical scientific objectives leading to advances that directly impact human health and medical care.

  1. Reduction stipulates using the least number of animals possible to achieve the research objective.
  2. Replacement involves requiring evidence that a non-animal model is not available and/or that the identified species is justified.
  3. Refinement ensures that any pain or distress that the animal might experience is alleviated or minimized as much as possible.

Federal laws and other regulations regarding animal research are created to address public and scientific concern for the humane care and use of animals. Animal research at UT is conducted humanely according to the highest legal and ethical standards set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (Animal Welfare Act and Regulations) and National Institutes of Health (Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare Policies and Laws).

The UT program supporting the humane care and use of animals includes the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and the Animal Resources Center (ARC). The IACUC approves and provides continued oversight of animal research, teaching and testing activities. Members of the committee evaluate animal use proposals to ensure that the use of animals is justified, adheres to the “Three R’s,” including requiring researchers to have a plan that prevents or minimizes any pain or distress the animals may experience during the course of the study. The IACUC is comprised of veterinarians, scientists, non-scientists, community representatives and animal care professionals. The ARC employs veterinarians specialized in laboratory animal care. Specially trained veterinary technicians and animal caretakers ensure that all animals are observed daily and are provided the care needed to ensure optimal welfare. The animals receive clean housing, fresh water, nutritious diets and species-appropriate enrichment.

The use of animals in research is a privilege, carrying with it a professional and ethical obligation to ensure that animals are treated humanely. UT is committed to this concept along with the advancement of scientific research that benefits the care and wellbeing of both humans and animals. We encourage you to read about UT’s discoveries on how we are achieving these objectives.


Dr. Daniel Jaffe
Vice President for Research

Animal Care and Oversight

Researchers in the United States must comply with some of the strictest laws and regulations for animal care in the world. The animals at The University of Texas at Austin receive daily care from people specially trained in laboratory animal medicine and husbandry. They are provided with clean food and healthy diets specially designed for them, and many receive environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviors. Click each question below to learn more about animal care and oversight at UT Austin.

Why does The University of Texas at Austin conduct animal research?

UT is proud to be one of the world's leading research universities, and animals are occasionally needed in research to make scientific progress.

The physiological systems of humans and other species of animals are very similar. Research studies involving animals have led to critical contributions to the treatment of a wide variety of diseases. Vaccinations for polio, tuberculosis and diphtheria as well as pacemakers and cochlear implants have all been developed through research on animals. In fact, 188 of the 225 Nobel Prize award recipients in the Physiology or Medicine category used animal models in their research! (Source: Foundation for Biomedical Research, Nobel Prizes in Medicine, 2018)

Animal research not only benefits humans. It also plays a key role in the development of veterinary medicine for our pets. These discoveries include the feline leukemia vaccine and flea control methods. These advances would not have been possible without the use of laboratory animals.

Is UT accredited?

The University has been continuously accredited by AAALAC International since 2001. AAALAC evaluates organizations that use animals in research, teaching or testing by conducting triennial site visits. Those that meet or exceed AAALAC standards are awarded accreditation. AAALAC accreditation is an indication that UT Austin conducts quality and good science. It shows that we are serious about setting, achieving and maintaining high standards for animal care and use and are committed to animal welfare. We are committed to continuous improvement, which is achieved by the recommendations of this organization. Learn more about AAALAC accreditation.

How does UT ensure that all animals used in research, teaching or testing receive proper care?

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) provides oversight for all animal care and use at the University. No animal research, teaching or testing may be performed without prior approval of the IACUC, which comprises of scientists, veterinarians, non-scientist UT staff and members of the community.

Our researchers and animal caregivers understand that good science is dependent on proper animal care. Highly trained, licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians with specialized training in laboratory animal medicine provide medical care for animals at the University. Veterinarians, animal care technicians and husbandry specialists receive training through the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). These are dedicated professionals whose jobs are to ensure that laboratory animals receive the highest quality of care. They work with researchers to ensure minimization of animal discomfort or distress because these not only affect the well-being of animals, but also the reliability of the research itself.

It is expected and mandated at UT that the best possible care be given to ALL animals used for research, teaching and testing. Our animal care and use program takes accusations of animal mistreatment very seriously and the IACUC is obligated to investigate all concerns regarding the care and treatment of animals. Any and all observed mistreatment of animals or failures to follow procedures and regulations should be reported to the Attending Veterinarian and/or IACUC.

Are there guidelines or standards to follow to work with animals in research?

Scientists who wish to perform research with animals must receive prior approval from their Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). The IACUC reviews proposals while focusing on the ethical care and use of animals. Scientists and IACUCs must comply with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare and University policies and procedures. Both federal agencies have strict policies and regulations regarding the care and use of animals.

UT is also accredited by AAALAC, a voluntary accreditation organization that sets the gold standard for the care and use of animals in research.

Is there support for alternatives to the use of animals in research?

UT is committed to the principles of the “3Rs:” Reduction, Refinement and Replacement for animals used in research. Each time a UT researcher requests approval for animal research, they must consider alternatives first.

  1. Reduction – Methods which minimize the number of animals used per experiment
  2. Refinement – Methods which improve animal welfare by refining practices
  3. Replacement – Methods which replace the use of animals with less sentient or non-animal models

Researchers may use different approaches to finding cures or enhancing our knowledge of diseases and treatments, including the use of computers, cellular and molecular studies, tissue cultures, gene sequencing, epidemiology and animals.

What happens to animals once they are no longer needed for research?

Most research protocols require animals to be euthanized so that scientists may study their internal organs and tissues. Strict guidelines for each species help to ensure that the animals experience no discomfort. UT also partners with accredited sanctuaries to retire some animals that do not need to be euthanized at the end of a project.