What is the policy on animal care and use at the University of Colorado 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 & Innovation 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 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, inspections of facilities and research projects and through formal investigations by the IACUC. Please see our Regulations and Policies page to see other documentation and guidelines related to animal care and use that CU Boulder 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 CU Boulder?
  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.

NOTE: 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?

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 enroll in the Occupational Health and Safety Program?

The Office of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) administers the Occupational Health & Safety Training Program for employees and students who may be exposed to health risks as part of their jobs or research activities at CU Boulder. You must sign up in advance to enroll in this training.


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

Ask your supervisor in the lab to submit a personnel addendum adding you to an existing animal protocol or multiple protocols. Note: At this point your supervisor should also attach your training documentation to the addendum before submitting. You are not approved to work with animals until your PI or lab manager receives approval from the IACUC.



How long is a protocol approval good for?

Three years. You should write the animal use application to include all work and all animals requested for three years. You are required to submit an interim renewal at year two and rewrite the protocol application every third year.

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 EH&S (Environmental Health & Safety). 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?

Take required IACUC & OCC Health trainings and have your PI add you to an approved protocol. Upon completing these preliminary steps, you may submit a Facility Access application with the OAR. The OAR will contact you to arrange an orientation at the facility.

How do I submit an Unanticipated Adverse Event Form?

An unanticipated event form should be filled out and submitted to the IACUC 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. 

The unanticipated event form must be reported within 72 hours of the incident.   

For immediate medical care for animals, contact the CU Boulder Veterinarian at UCB.Veterinarian@colorado.edu.



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 Director 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,  IACUC Director or the Chair of the IACUC (see Contact Us). All reports will be held in strict confidence and addressed immediately. 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.

Read about CU Boulder's Guidelines and Procedures for Responding to Allegations of Research Misconduct. 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 Director 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 iacucoffice@colorado.edu. 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.