COVID-19: Animal Care and Use

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Updates on COVID-19: Animal Care and Use (IACUC)


This webpage has been created to share the answers to COVID-19-related questions as pertains to animal care, use, and oversight. Fore more information visit our webpage on COVID-19.

Updated 3/26/20 at 1 p.m. with Guidelines for Maintenance Breeding. Previosuly updated 3/24/20 with new FAQ regarding reviews and postponing Hershey campus inspections; 3/20/20 with announcements from OSVPR and important new FAQs.

 

Except for essential research which cannot be delayed, the following applies to research with animals:

  • Effective March 24, 2020, no new animal work may be initiated. 
  • Prepare to terminate projects that are underway judiciously such that precious research data is preserved. 
  • Reduce breeding to a minimal level, only what is necessary to maintain the line.
  • Consider cryopreservation to preserve valuable lines. 
  • Laboratory personnel should be prepared to continue monitoring ongoing breeding activities and experimental activities until they are concluded.
  • Prepare contingency plans in case laboratory personnel are unable to provide required care.

 

Essential research per OSVPR 3/20/20: Ongoing, long-term animal studies for which premature termination would result in loss of critical data and the waste of animal subjects; and completion of studies scheduled to conclude within the next few weeks. Please see full information from OSVPR.

 

IACUC Operations

The Penn State and Penn State College of Medicine IACUC groups continue to conduct official business, including but not limited to: meeting regularly to review the Program of Animal Care and Use, conducting protocol review and approval, accepting reports of and investigating animal welfare concerns, reporting to federal agencies and AAALACi and completing grant congruency reviews. 

The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare issued guidance on March 16, 2020 that provides flexibility for conducting semi-annual inspections. On the Hershey campus, inspections of the animal facilities will be conducted on schedule in April. At University Park, inspections will continue as planned. To maximize compliance with social distancing and minimize risk for researchers and animal care staff, the UP IACUC will use the flexibility provided by the PHS policy to utilize a single ad-hoc reviewer for facilities housing non-UDSA covered species and the minimum requirement of two IACUC members for facilities housing USDA covered species.

IACUC staff are available to answer questions, assist in protocol preparation and provide remote training and consultation as needed. See contact information below:

Animal Facilities

The Animal Resource Programs (ARP)  at both University Park and the College of Medicine will continue to operate as normal. Animal facilities must be maintained at a level to ensure animal welfare. Principal investigators and unit managers of animal housing sites NOT managed by ARP are responsible for continued care. Investigator labs must keep ARP informed if their personnel are not able to care for their animals on study. If staff are unable to keep up with breeding colonies, study humane endpoints, etc., ARP must be notified using the contact information below: 

  • University Park: 814-865-1495 to be connected to a veterinarian or directed to the on-call number outside of office hours.
  • College of Medicine: 717-531-8460.

Except for essential research, animal orders will no longer be accepted. Pending orders will be cancelled. The ARP will continue placing orders for the critical supplies in support of essential research and needed to ensure animal health and wellbeing (e.g., feed, bedding, critical care veterinary supplies). Procurement of all noncritical supplies will be temporarily placed on hold. Customers will be notified once normal purchasing operations resume.

 

Review the Guidelines for Maintenance Breeding during research reduction. 

 

See below for answers to Frequently Asked Questions regarding IACUC and ARP updates related to COVID-19.

The Animal Resource Programs (ARP) at University Park and Hershey have plans in place to provide continued daily care to all animals housed on the respective campuses in the event of natural disasters or other events that may interrupt normal business, including the current coronavirus pandemic. The plans include continued veterinary care; assessment of animal health and wellbeing; provision of food, water, and clean cages; and maintenance of environmental conditions.

Veterinary, veterinary technician, and husbandry staff are considered essential employees and will be expected to come in during a disaster. Whenever there is a possibility that there will be a significant loss of staff or limited access to animals, ARP identifies staff who would be willing and able to come to or stay in the facility, and work is limited to basic care only; change-outs and other husbandry procedures that are deemed non-essential may be delayed as determined by the ARP administration.

If you have an animal in need of immediate attention, locate an ARP staff member (such as animal care staff) to get in touch with an on-call veterinarian.

  • On the University Park campus: A veterinarian may be reached by calling the ARP office (814-865-1495). If you call after hours, listen to the recording for emergency contact information.
  • On the Hershey campus: During business hours (Monday thru Friday, 8 am – 5 pm): Call the Department of Comparative Medicine office at x8460.

After business hours or on weekends: Locate the on-call schedule on the Animal Resources page; or call the Hospital Operator at 717-531-0000, and ask to have the on-call veterinarian paged.

The IACUC will continue to review submissions to the committee during this time. Submissions can be made as usual (via CATS IACUC and/or email). IACUC administrators will continue to provide service to researchers. Please contact the IACUC Office for assistance: Hershey Campus (IACUC@pennstatehealth.psu.edu, x285895 or x285571), University Park (ORP-IACUC@psu.edu, 814-865-8897). Email and phones will continue to be monitored.

Except for essential research, animal orders will no longer be accepted. Pending orders will be cancelled.

The ARP will continue placing orders for the critical supplies in support of essential research and needed to ensure animal health and wellbeing (e.g., feed, bedding, critical care veterinary supplies). Procurement of all noncritical supplies will be temporarily placed on hold. Customers will be notified once normal purchasing operations resume.

All in-person training classes and workshops available through ARP are on hold until further notice.

Required IACUC training modules, available online through the CITI Program website may be taken online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere.

IACUC Office staff are available for assistance remotely via email:

Postpone any activities or experiments that are not time-sensitive in the event that you, or member(s) of your laboratory staff, are no longer able to complete the study and/or continue collecting data without interruption.

The conduct of all animal activities should be carefully planned by the PI or lead research team member. These plans should include, for example, making sure an adequate number of research staff members are present to conduct the activity before it is started and that social distancing practices can be followed as much as possible. In addition, planning should include ensuring postprocedural care, such as providing analgesics and performing routine observations. Finally, veterinary staff should be aware and engaged, as necessary, when performing any complex procedures, especially in non-rodent mammals.

“Experts have not expressed concern about transmission to or from animals. Multiple international and domestic health organizations have indicated that pets and other domestic animals are not considered at risk for contracting or spreading COVID-19.”

-- Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Veterinary personnel will continue to monitor reports on risks related to research animals and communicate those with the research community.

  • Identify emergency personnel and ensure they know what to do as normal operations are suspended. 
  • Remind lab personnel of your communication plan or create one if not in place.
  • Prioritize personnel in case of restricted access.
  • Create a plan to manage ongoing care of animals in the event of staffing or shortage supplies.
  • Limit breeding activities to levels that maintain replacement breeders only.
  • Do not initiate any new animal studies.
  • Consider cryopreservation of precious rodent lines

    • At University Park Contact Randy Rossi 814 – 865 – 7059.
    • At Hershey, contact Alane Seidel by email, aseidel@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or by phone, 717-531-8460.
  • Identify critical/priority cages (founder stock for breeding colonies, irreplaceable animals, etc.)
  • Ensure remote access to files, data, servers, etc.
  • Plan for remote proposal/protocol submission.

Yes. Even if the research is not currently active, the PI must still submit the annual or three-year renewal to ensure continuity of approval. This will allow research to begin again immediately when permitted. Failure to submit the Review will result in lapse of approval and study closure. If the study is closed, the study cannot be re-opened without submitting a new application and all research activities must stop until the new application is approved.

The NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare issued guidance on March 16, 2020 that provides flexibility for conducting semi-annual inspections. On the Hershey campus, inspections of all facilities will be postponed until a later date. At University Park, investigators will be notified when inspections begin. Laboratory inspections may be delayed until early May. Alternatively, the IACUC may be allowed to conduct inspections via live video; this strategy will be implemented if necessary.