By Nina Woodford, Director of the Office of the Campus Veterinarian
WSU researchers are making new discoveries every day with an aim to preserve, improve, or advance the well-being and lives of humans, animals, and the environments we share. Research studying laboratory animals plays a vital role in many of these discoveries. Animal-based research comes with the responsibility to provide animals with the highest level of ethical and humane care. The University is strongly committed to that care.
The Office of the Campus Veterinarian (OCV) oversees and administers this high level of care to animals across the WSU system. We provide a complete range of services including veterinary care, vivarium services, training and research, and safety support. With the centralization of seven animal housing facilities on the Pullman campus in July 2018, OCV now manages over 400,000 square feet of animal care space. While the majority of animals at WSU are mice, rats, and fish, we also oversee the care of a variety of other animals including cattle, swine, bears, dogs, horses, sheep, goats, deer, camelids, amphibians, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, and birds.
Caring for animals serves as a vital component to WSU’s research infrastructure
The Office of Research oversees the University’s research infrastructure, which includes facilities, resources, and related services used by the community to conduct top-level research. OCV is a critical part of the infrastructure. It is our role to ensure animal health and well-being, and we advocate for humane and ethical treatment of every animal studied for research and teaching purposes.
In 2016, WSU President Kirk Schulz set forth a goal for WSU to become a top 25 public research institution by 2030. Our work in OCV to care for and protect the animals studied at WSU for research helps grow the research enterprise, which in turn supports the Drive to 25 effort.
Providing ethical and humane animal care statewide
OCV oversees the care for all research and teaching animals that are owned, housed or studied by the University statewide. Animals are studied for research or education on the WSU Pullman, WSU Spokane, WSU Tri-Cities, and WSU Vancouver campuses, as well as at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center.
As the director of the Office of the Campus Veterinarian, I oversee the care of a daily census of more than 17,000 animals across the state. While I visit regularly, with multiple locations that house animals, it is not possible for me to care for these animals alone. It takes a team effort to ensure that all animals receive proper care.
In order to provide the highest level of care to all animals across all WSU locations, I have a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians to provide direct medical care, training and research support. In addition, we work closely with veterinarians at the College of Veterinary Medicine as well as private and other governmental veterinary practitioners who contribute to animal care. An enormous team of well-trained and engaged animal care staff, managers, faculty, laboratory personnel and students work to provide the daily animal care across the WSU system. All locations receive an on-site visit biannually.
In my position as the Attending Veterinarian, I have the responsibility to ensure the provision of veterinary care and I oversee the standards for animal housing, husbandry, nutrition, sanitation practices, security, safety, and behavioral management. In September 2018, a new Business Policies and Procedures Manual policy (BPPM 45.41) was approved, defining the authority of the attending veterinarian in accordance with the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Reorganization of OCV and centralization of WSU Vivariums
Historically, animal facilities at WSU have been managed as independent units through individual departments or colleges. On July 1, 2018, multiple animal facilities on the WSU Pullman campus began the transition to centralized management. This reorganization effectively brings the vivarium services under the supervision of the campus veterinarian with the intent to capitalize on efficiencies and to promote collaborations and campus-wide strategic planning for the animal care and use program.
The following facilities now report to the Integrated Vivarium Services (IVS) within the OCV:
- Biotechnology and Life Sciences Building vivarium
- Veterinary Biomedical Research Building vertical and basement vivaria
- Bustad Hall vivarium
- Animal Disease Biotechnology Facility vivarium
- IVS Isolation Building (188E)
- Wegner Hall vivarium
- Eastlick vivarium.
Integrated Vivarium Services has a current staff of 12 animal care managers and technicians. This dedicated team of animal care professionals provide the critical day-to-day animal care, as well as safety and facility operations.
With the reorganization, we created a newly defined unit, Campus Veterinary Services, composed of the veterinary staff within OCV. Services provided include emergency veterinary care, diagnostic testing, rodent health monitoring for specific pathogen free colonies, surgery, anesthesia or surgical support, medical monitoring, and treatment and preventive medicine, as well as protocol development, training and technical services.
Connecting OCV, the Animal Welfare Program, and IACUC
OCV works closely with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and its administrative arm, the Animal Welfare Program. The collaborating units ensure that animals at WSU receive the best possible care by performing distinct, complementary functions. OCV focuses on animal health and welfare. The IACUC reviews, approves, and oversees animal care and use at WSU, including all research and teaching protocols involving live vertebrate animals and cephalopods. The Animal Welfare Program supports the functions of the committee and coordinates with the associated regulatory agencies.
IACUC is a self-regulating oversight committee required by institutions and research laboratories that studies animals for teaching, research or testing and receive federal funding. IACUC oversees the compliance of WSU’s Animal Care and Use Program and verifies that federal, state, and local regulations are followed, along with University policies and protocols. The professional staff in OCV supports the IACUC by providing mandated veterinary protocol review and by contributing veterinary and animal care expertise.
Complying with university, state and federal policies, laws and regulations
Together our units ensure that University activities involving animals comply with federal and state regulations and University policies. The WSU Animal Care and Use Program is evaluated every six months by the IACUC and reviewed annually by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to verify that compliance is met and policies and procedures are followed.
WSU standards for housing and care are high and our Animal Care and Use Program is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALACI). WSU receives a site visit every three years to ensure our program is meeting the highest standards, which most recently happened in fall 2018. We recently received notification that AAALAC awarded the continued full accreditation status for WSU.
Advocating for the well-being of animals housed at WSU
As WSU’s research portfolio continues to grow, it is important that we maintain high quality animal care and follow policies and procedures to ensure that every animal studied for research receives ethical and humane care. We are the guardians of every animal used for research at WSU and it is our job to ensure that every animal receives the highest level of care possible. Because of this, OCV is a vital component to the success of research happening at WSU.