by Robert Sanders
After 10 years spent rebuilding the animal-care program, Berkeley has won coveted accreditation by a national organization known for its high standards and concern for the welfare of research animals.
In issuing its accreditation, the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) called the campus's program "exemplary."
The accreditation came after a decade of planning and fund raising, development of a centralized program for administering animal care and use, construction of two new research buildings and renovation of a third, and the consolidation of all animals into these three new facilities.
The long process was initiated in 1984 by then-Chancellor Heyman and former Vice Chancellor Roderic Park. Current Chancellor Tien, who was vice chancellor for research from 1983-85, played a critical role in launching the program, and his continued strong support after he became chancellor in 1990 ensured its successful completion.
"The establishment of a strong, centralized animal care and use program was essential for achieving AAALAC accreditation," said Roy V. Henrickson, director of the campus's Office of Laboratory Animal Care. "This task was possible only because of the strong support of the central administration, faculty and staff. This support was evident to the AAALAC site visitors, who praised the collective efforts of all involved."
"Everyone is pleased, relieved, and committed to maintaining the high level of animal care we have now," said Richard C. Van Sluyters, chair of the campus Animal Care and Use Committee and one of the people who helped shape the current program. "Berkeley is now in the forefront of animal-care and use programs in the country. There is no higher standard than AAALAC accreditation. The point now is not to relax, but to keep on course."
The campus's problems with animal care grew out of a lack of oversight of the 18 different buildings housing research animals a decade ago. This was the legacy of an era when individual departments or faculty members housed their own animals.
As a result, decisions concerning animal husbandry, sanitation, and veterinary care were made by people who sometimes had little experience or knowledge in these areas. The amount of time, effort, and money allocated for animal care varied widely as well.
This decentralized system resulted in non-uniform standards of animal care. In addition, many of the rooms used to house animals were not originally designed for that purpose, and years of budgetary constraints led to limited maintenance or improvement of the facilities.
At the same time, government standards for the care and use of research animals and for the design and construction of animal facilities had been upgraded considerably. It was during this period that one external review committee characterized Berkeley's animal facilities as "the worst in the university system."
Recognizing the need to correct these problems and faced with denial of accreditation by AAALAC in 1984, the campus embarked on a major restructuring of its animal care and use program.
The campus also made a commitment to the state Legislature to obtain accreditation in return for funds to construct the Life Sciences Addition.
The campus's major thrust was to centralize both management and housing of animals on the Berkeley campus to provide consistently high- quality care and oversight. Key to the restructuring was the 1985 hiring of veterinarian Henrickson, formerly assistant director of the California Regional Primate Research Center at Davis.
He and his staff in the newly created Office of Laboratory Animal Care implemented uniform standards of animal care across the campus, provided training for faculty, students, and animal-care technicians, and shepherded the overall program around numerous roadblocks to achieve accreditation.
Working with the animal-care office was a strengthened Animal Care and Use Committee. Under Van Sluyters, the committee developed a comprehensive process for reviewing and approving all proposed use of animals in research projects and campus courses, developed campus policies and guidelines for animal welfare, and implemented a rigorous program of monitoring animal housing and research laboratories.
Today all animals are cared for in one of four facilities run by the Office of Laboratory Animal Care: the Life Sciences Addition, completed in 1988 and housing nearly half of all animals on campus; the Northwest Animal Facility, completed last year and holding most of the remainder of the animals; the newly renovated Minor Hall, which houses animals used in optometry research; and an upgraded Field Station for Behavioral Research, located in the hills above campus.