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What is the policy on animal care and use at the University of Colorado at Boulder?

At CU-Boulder, experiments and instruction involving animal use are based on three major principles:

  1. CU-Boulder reaffirms that the use of animals and animal tissues constitutes fundamental and legitimate aspects of the University's academic mission.
  2. CU-Boulder encourages the utilization, whenever possible, of alternatives to the use of animals in research, and welcomes the search for alternatives.
  3. CU-Boulder acknowledges both legal and moral responsibility for the welfare and humane treatment of animals.

In addition, CU-Boulder reaffirms its commitment to abide by established federal standards of humane animal care. For further details, please see our Policy Statement page.

Who is responsible for ensuring adequate care and use of animals in research projects?

CU-Boulder's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) assists the Attending Veterinarian in overseeing the University's animal program, facilities and procedures. The IACUC's primary functions are to:

  1. Review all animal use protocols before any project can be started (disapproval stops the research project).
  2. Conduct semi-annual inspections of animal facilities.
  3. Set reasonable schedules for the correction of any identified deficiencies noted in the animal facilities or program.
  4. Provide advice and counsel to the Vice Chancellor for Research in all matters involving animal use.
  5. Ensure appropriate training for animal caretakers, investigators, and animal researchers.

The committee reviews animal use protocols for research and teaching projects and helps plan animal facility projects. IACUC is authorized to suspend any activity involving animals if such activity is deemed inappropriate, inhumane or not in accord with the approved protocol.

The committee consists of 20 representatives of faculty, staff, administration and the local community. By Public Health Service regulation, IACUC must include at least: the attending veterinarian, a practicing scientist experienced in animal research, a non-scientist, and a member not affiliated with the University.

Does CU-Boulder comply with relevant laws and guidelines?

CU-Boulder complies with all applicable laws and regulations related to use of animals in research, including the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act, among others. Compliance is verified through review of submitted animal protocols (all projects using animals for research or teaching, regardless of funding source, must submit a protocol for review); through inspections of facilities and research projects by the director of animal resources and IACUC members; and through formal investigations by IACUC. Please see our “Regulations and Policies” page to see other documentation and guidelines related to animal care and use that UCB follows.

How has animal research benefited humans and animals?

Animal research has played a crucial role in the advancement of scientific knowledge in modern society. For example, almost every major medical advance of the past century (including veterinary medicine) depended on the use of animals in research.

Some biomedical advances made possible by animal research include:

  • Immunization against polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, hepatitis
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics
  • Blood transfusions
  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy for cancer
  • Open-heart surgery
  • Insulin for management of diabetes
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Microsurgery to reattach severed limbs
  • Surgical treatment for atherosclerosis
  • Medications to control epileptic seizures
  • Vaccination of animals against distemper, rabies, anthrax, tetanus and feline leukemia
  • Treatment for cancers in pet animals
  • Control of heartworm infection in dogs
  • Treatment of arthritis in dogs

In addition, research on animals has contributed significantly to saving some endangered animals from extinction.

How do I begin working with vertebrate animals at UCB?
  1. Take the IACUC Basic training.
  2. Enroll in the Occupational Health Program (includes being cleared by the Occupational Health Nurse).
  3. Get added to an existing animal use protocol. Your PI must submit a personnel addendum to add you. Your PI must also submit training documentation for you. (For individuals without experience working with a particular species or conducting particular procedures, PI must indicate how they will be trained.)
  4. Set up a facility orientation with the facility manager. Ask your PI for this information, or get it during IACUC Training. Make an appointment with the facility manager.
  5. Now you’ve completed the steps necessary to get keys/card access to the facility.

Once you have completed steps 1 and 2, and your PI has done step 3, we will send an email to your PI that you are approved to gain access to the facility and begin working with vertebrate animals. At any point after taking IACUC Basic training, you can get a facility orientation. After the orientation, you can get key access. From there, your individual lab should train you further on lab-specific procedures, and update your training documentation as that happens.

Who needs to take the IACUC Basic Training 2.5 hour course?

Everyone who directly handles, uses, cares for, or holds an active protocol involving vertebrate animals at the University of Colorado Boulder. This includes Principal Investigators, postdocs, PhD candidates, undergraduates, work study students, volunteers, and animal facility staff that work with live vertebrate animals.

How do I sign up for the next IACUC Training session?

First, begin the process of enrollment into the Occupational Health and Safety Program (see below). Go to our Training page to see when the next available class will be held, and attend.

Be sure to sign yourself in when you arrive at the training, so we have it documented that you were there.

How do I enroll in the Occupational Health and Safety Program?

Click here to access the Document to Enroll in Occupational Health. Fill it out with “OHP Register” in the subject line, and email to

Our occupational health nurse will then email you a confidential, unique link to an online questionnaire, which you should fill out promptly. The questionnaire is protected medical information, stored securely. Only the occupational health nurse is able to view your answers to the questionnaire. From there, she may contact you to discuss your unique risks to working with laboratory animals and offer suggestions to help prevent laboratory animal allergies or the development of asthma.

How do I get my name added to an existing active animal protocol?

Ask your supervisor in the lab to submit a personnel addendum to add you to an existing animal protocol, or multiple protocols. This could be a lab manager, your PI, or the grad student you are working with. Your supervisor will also have to fill out training documentation for you, and send it to the IACUC Office. You are not approved to work until your PI or lab manager receives the personnel addendum approval.

What are the IACUC meeting dates and submission deadlines for protocols?

The deadline for submitting a new protocol or renewal of an existing protocol for the next IACUC meeting is exactly two weeks prior to the meeting. Feel free to send your protocol in earlier than this deadline. Please have your department IACUC rep pre-review your protocol prior to this IACUC deadline, and it may also be helpful to send it to the UCB Veterinarian. For example, if you want your protocol discussed at the August 24 IACUC meeting, it must be emailed, complete, to the IACUC Office no later than August 10.

Protocol Submission Deadlines for 2016 IACUC Meetings
Protocol Deadline 2016 IACUC Meetings
June 29 July 13
August 10 August 24
August 31 September 14
September 28 October 12
October 26 November 9
November 23 December 7
2017 January
How long is a protocol approval good for?

An animal use protocol is good for three years from its approval date, provided that you provide the necessary updates during those three years. After three years, even if you are renewing a protocol, the protocol goes through a full, detailed review by the IACUC. This is to make sure that your protocol is current with accepted methods of animal care and procedures. This is an ever-changing field, so it is good to update practices when possible.

What must I do to maintain an active animal use protocol?
  1. Two months before the first and second anniversary of your protocol, you must submit an Annual Update Form.
  2. Two months before your protocol expires, you must submit the Three Year Update Form.
  3. You must report any unanticipated events as they happen on your protocol to the IACUC.
  4. If you want to make any changes to, or add elements to your existing protocol, you must submit an Addendum and get approval from the IACUC. This includes adding personnel.
  5. You must get prior approval from the IACUC when ordering animals from vendors approved in your protocol. Turnaround is less than 48 hours.
  6. You must contact the UCB Veterinarian prior to importing animals from other institutions, as approved in your protocol.
  7. You must contact the IACUC Office at the end of every month if you are breeding animals at UCB, to update us on your animal use.


When can I start working on an animal protocol?

Only after you have a).Completed the full 2 hour IACUC Basic Training course, b). Enrolled in the Occupational Health program by filling out the email link to an online questionnaire, and you have been cleared to work by the Occupational Health Nurse, c). You have been added to an existing animal protocol by your supervisor, and the IACUC has confirmed approval of your addition to that protocol, d). You have filled out the necessary paperwork to gain access to your respective animal facility, and the facility manager of that facility has signed with approval for you to gain key access.

What if all I need is some blood or tissue obtained in collaboration with a lab that has an active animal use protocol?

We have a special “Notice of in vitro use of blood, fluid or tissue for research or teaching” Form, which you can fill out and submit to the IACUC Office. If, for example, a laboratory you know of uses the brain of an animal for their research, and you can use the heart after the animal has been euthanized humanely, then this tissue form would facilitate the sharing of this tissue between labs. This promotes the strategy of Reduction involved in quality animal research because the second lab didn’t need to euthanize an entire new set of animals to obtain the heart tissue; they were able to make use of tissue from animals that were already planned for euthanasia. It reduces the number of animals necessary to facilitate the research for both parties.

How do I get animal facility access?

After taking IACUC Basic Training, make an appointment with the facility supervisor for the animal facility you will be working in to do an orientation. After your orientation, you can get in touch with your department’s key liaison and gain facility access.

How do I submit an Unanticipated Event Form?

Go to our Forms page, and select the Unanticipated Event Form. Fill this form out and return to the IACUC Office promptly, so there is no delay of taking care of the issue and preventing it from happening again. For immediate medical care for animals, contact the UCB Veterinarian. An unanticipated event form should be filled out if there is ever a situation of an unexpected outcome in research, or an event that adversely affects the health or wellbeing of non-human vertebrate animals used in research or teaching. 

Who do I call if I have a question about animal anesthetics, analgesia, surgery, euthanasia, monitoring, or training in animal-related procedures?

We have several resources on this website that are helpful tools on these topics.

Who can I contact with a question that is not covered on this FAQ page?

The IACUC Office can answer your questions regarding forms, deadlines, specific protocol questions, animal tracking, training documentation, or direct you to the appropriate party.

Contact the UCB Veterinarian for questions related to animal health, veterinary care, procedures, or animal health concerns: UCB Veterinarian.

Contact the IACUC Administrator or the IACUC Chair for any other questions.

Who should I contact if my project involves hazardous biological agents or radioactive material?

Contact Environmental Health and Safety, and your email or call will be directed to the most useful party:
Ph: 303-492-6025

How do I report an animal welfare concern?

Since a primary function of the IACUC is to ensure the humane treatment of animals, any suspected mistreatment should be reported immediately to either the University veterinarian or the Chair of the IACUC (see our Contact Us). All reports will be held in strict confidence and addressed immediately. The outcome of the inquiry will be reported back to the individual promptly. If you report a concern anonymously we will not be able to respond to you with the outcome, but understand that every concern raised is addressed by the IACUC.

If you would like to read about CU Boulder's Guidelines and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct, click here. Section IV, D pertinent to reporting animal welfare concerns.

Does my project require IACUC Review?

If your research or teaching project involves the use, manipulation, breeding, or care of vertebrate animals and their embryos, you must seek IACUC review. Do this by filling out a protocol application well in advance of your desired project start date. We recommend two or three months in advance for researchers that are new to animal research work.

Does my field research require IACUC Review?

Here is the guidance directly from the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, a branch of NIH: “If the activity alters or influences the activities of the animal(s) that are being studied, the activity must be reviewed and approved by the IACUC (e.g., capture and release, banding). If the activity does not alter or influence the activity of the animal(s), IACUC review and approval is not required (observational, photographs, collection of feces).” In addition: “Studies with the potential to impact the health or safety of personnel or the animal’s environment may need IACUC oversight, even if described as purely observational or behavioral.” Please contact the IACUC Administrator with questions, or to check that your protocol must be IACUC-reviewed.

When should I submit a protocol?

Go to our Protocol Submission page, and look at the directions for submitting a new or renewal protocol. Usually, once a Principle Investigator has received a grant score that will probably get funded, that is the appropriate time to submit an animal use protocol. The protocol review process can take one, two, sometimes three months to complete, so it is good to get your protocol application in early. See the guidance on our webpage here for tips and helpful resources for putting together your protocol application. Prior to submitting your protocol to the IACUC, your protocol should go through a pre-review process with your departmental representative from the IACUC, and sometimes the UCB Veterinarian as well. After the pre-review, the protocol must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the next IACUC meeting. Email your protocol application to See our FAQ “What are the IACUC meeting dates and submission deadlines for protocols?” (above) for the submissions deadlines.

How do I close my animal research protocol?

Submit a Three Year Update form for your protocol. You can submit this anytime during the three year life of your animal use protocol if you have completed your research or did not receive funding, or you can submit it at the end of the three year lifespan of your protocol. Indicate that your research is no longer active, and let us know the status of your laboratory animals. 

Animal Tracking: When should you count animals as individuals, and when should you estimate?

Generally, animals at all live stages after birth are counted as individuals. Exceptions are smaller-sized community species such as medaka or zebrafish where the number of adults may be estimated based upon tank size and density.

Animal Tracking: When should the counting of individual animals occur?

Animals are counted and deducted from the approved protocol at the point of first use.

  1. How do I count animals purchased from a vendor or imported?   Animals are deducted from the protocol at the time of the order, and that figure is adjusted to reflect that number of animals that arrive alive from a commercial vendor or other source.   
  2. How do I count animals in an in-house breeding colony? All breeding colony animals produced must be counted, even if only a sub-set of those animals were used for actual experimentation because all of the animals (males AND females, desirable genotypes AND undesirable genotypes) were generated  for the purpose of research.  New animals in a breeding colony should be counted at the point of ‘first use,’ meaning upon weaning, use in an experiment, or use in accordance with the protocol.  Animals that spontaneously die of natural causes prior to weaning are not counted or deducted from a protocol.

Examples of “First-Use” in the context of a breeding colony

  • A litter is born and genotyped. All but two individuals will be euthanized. Since genotyping is a procedure, the entire litter is counted against the protocol.
  • A litter is born, raised to weaning age, and weaned.  Animals are counted when weaned. 
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