Animal research

Swinburne’s use of animals in teaching and research complies with the provisions of the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1986) and associated Regulations 2008 as well as the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

All  projects involving the care and use of live animals or animal tissue must have the approval of the Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee prior to commencement. This includes, for example:

  • tissues for class experiments
  • behavioural studies
  • wildlife census data collection
  • the use of fish.

This is applicable also to animals or tissue obtained from third parties.

Swinburne’s facilities for the care and use of animals for teaching or research operate strictly within the terms of the Scientific Premises Procedures Licence issued by the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

Animal ethics

Please note that Swinburne has limited facilities for the care and use of animals for teaching or research, including no overnight housing facilities on any of its campuses for laboratory animals such as rats, mice, guinea pigs, etc. The Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee (SAEC) meets on a limited number of occasions each year, therefore, please contact the Research Ethics Office at Swinburne Research sooner rather than later when considering proposals for projects involving animals.

The use of animals in teaching and research

Swinburne University of Technology is required to comply with the provisions of the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1986) and the associated Regulations (1997). This means that all experiments involving animals must have the approval of the Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee (SAEC) prior to the commencement of experimentation. This includes such uses as animals to provide tissues for class experiments, behavioural studies, wildlife census data collection or the use of fish. This also includes animals or tissues obtained from third parties.

Swinburne operates strictly within the terms of its Scientific Premises Procedures Licence (SPPL) issued by the Victorian Bureau of Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industries and adheres to the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (8th Ed 2013), including the principles of the 3 Rs (animal replacement, reduction and technique refinement). Swinburne has limited facilities for the care and use of animals for teaching or research, including no overnight housing facilities on any of its campuses for laboratory animals such as rats, mice and guinea pigs. Full details regarding animal experimentation are set out in the "Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes", published by the NHMRC and available from the NHMRC website.

If you are unsure about any aspects of animal use or require the SAEC meeting schedule, you should contact the Secretary of the Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee at Swinburne Research.

The three Rs

Replacement

There are a number of alternative methods that can be used to replace the use of live animals in either all or part of a project. Replacement may be relative, where animals are still required to provide cells or tissue, but experiments are conducted in vitro. There methods are suited to studies at the tissue or cellular level and can be cost-effective and time saving. 

Reduction

The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes require that:

  • studies are designed to be scientifically and statistically valid
  • only the minimum number of animals required to reach the educational objective are used
  • studies should not be repeated unless clear justification is provided that this is essential for the purpose or design of the project
  • the principle of reduction should not be applied at the expense of greater suffering to individual animals
  • the number of animals used must satisfy statistical requirements - if reducing the number of animals makes it impossible to reach a valid conclusion, it would be unethical to proceed with such an experiment.

Refinement

Refinement is any decrease in the incidence or severity of 'inhumane' procedures applied to animals. There are two key issues here:

  • to assess the impact of any procedure or condition on the well-being of the animal
  • strategies to eliminate or minimise that impact.

Applying to use animals in research or teaching activities

If the chief investigator is a Swinburne staff member and the work is to be carried out in Swinburne facilities or in the field then approval must be obtained from the Swinburne AEC (SAEC).

If the chief investigator is a Swinburne staff member and the work is to be performed at another institution with a separate Scientific Procedures Premises License then the approval must be obtained from the AEC named on the Scientific Procedures Premises License of that institution and submitted to the SAEC for endorsement.

SAEC approval includes submitting a completed application form to the SAEC via the Secretary, SAEC. Work may only commence once an approval letter has been obtained.

Review of applications

The primary responsibility of the SAEC is to ensure on behalf of Swinburne that all activities relating to the care and use of animals is conducted in compliance with the Code. The role of the SAEC is to ensure that the use of animals is justified, provides due consideration for the welfare of the animals involved and incorporates the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the 3R's).

All applications will be reviewed at quorate meetings of the SAEC. A quorate meeting will have at least one member present from each of the below categories:

Category A: Veterinary surgeon with experience relevant to the activities of the institution or ability to acquire relevant knowledge

Category B: a suitably qualified person with substantial and recent experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes relevant to the institution and the business of the AEC.

Category C: a person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not currently involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

Category D: a person not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, either in their employment or beyond their undergraduate education. Category D members must not fit the requirements of any other category.

The SAEC will respond, via the Secretary, SAEC, either by: approving the project without modification; approving the project provided that specified modifications are made; or by not approving the project.

Applicants will receive notice of the SAEC decisions via email within seven working days after an AEC meeting. No project must commence before a formal AEC approval letter has been obtained.

Modification to approved application

A modification to an SAEC-approved project will only be granted if the amendment is minor and there is no significant change to the direction of the study. Such a modification may include a change in animal numbers, a minor change in procedures/techniques, an addition/removal of investigators, or an extension of the study duration.

The request to vary an approved animal ethics application can be made by the chief investigator in the form of an application to the Secretary, SAEC.

The request must include details about the proposed changes and reasoning as to why the modification is deemed necessary.

Animal holding facilities

Currently Swinburne does not have the capacity to establish or maintain animal colonies. Swinburne does have the capacity to hold cane toads. The holding of cane toads is subject to the SAEC approved SOP Secure keeping and care of cane toads and the DEPI Pest Animal Permit (RE74). Copies of these can be found in the holding facility, the animal technicians caring for the toads and by request to the Secretary, SAEC.

Adverse Events

Adverse events involving animals used for teaching and research

An adverse event is any event that is not anticipated within an approved animal ethics project which impacts on the wellbeing of an animal or animals. An adverse event can be a single occurrence or a cumulative event that involves unexpected mortality, injury or illness. For example:

  • Animal holding facility: an animal developing unexpected illness or disease
  • Laboratory: an animal developing unexpected adverse clinical signs to what was expected
  • Fieldwork: a trapped animal injured or dying during capture 

It is important to remember:

  • The immediate welfare of the animals is paramount – remove any obvious cause(s) as soon as possible
  • The reporting of an adverse incident is mandatory and the animal ethics officer must be informed as soon as possible.
  • In your report (Adverse Incident Report form [Word, 14KB]) you must include:
    •  The type and number of animals affected;
    • What was happening to the animal(s) when it occurred;
    • How was the animal affected;
    • Provide a timeline of events; and
    • Clarify if you know the cause.
  • You will be advised by the animal ethics officer as to how to proceed.
  • Your report will be reviewed at the next appropriate animal ethics meeting.

Record keeping and reporting of animal use

All researchers must maintain standard records of animal numbers, acquisition, transfer, use and destruction. Please see the DEPI website for more details.

Animal use for the calendar year must be reported each year of the project in the annual or final report. This information is used to comply with the requirements of the Swinburne Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (SPPL114) as issued by the Department of Environment Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Training in the use of animals for teaching or in research

The chief investigator of a project using animals is responsible for ensuring that each named personnel is adequately trained in the techniques to be used. Details of the training must be included in the ethics application for approval by the SAEC.

 If any further training is required please contact the Secretary, SAEC.

Students and the use of animals in coursework

The Code, Section 4 [8th edition] states, where animals are used for teaching activities, students should be given the opportunity to discuss the ethical, social and scientific issues which are involved in the use of animals for scientific and teaching purposes at a level appropriate to their learning ability and comprehension, and before the use of animals commences. All teaching staff must comply with all relevant clauses of the Code and their AEC approved application at each stage of the project. Where students are involved in the use of animals as part of their professional training, curricula in the academic discipline involved should include material on such issues.

If a student has a conscientious objection in relation to a particular form of animal use involved in teaching and learning they must contact the course coordinator to discuss. The Swinburne procedure for managing a conscientious objection to animal use is available below: 

Auditing and compliance of research projects

The Bureau of Animal Welfare regulates the use of animals in scientific procedures and the breeding of specified animals in Victoria. This responsibility includes the triennial auditing of licensed institutions and inspections. The auditing aims to assure the public that such animal use is legally compliant and that adequate welfare protection during justified scientific procedures and specified animal breeding is provided.

The legal obligations and responsibilities researchers and teachers are outlined in the Code.

DPI has a general enforcement policy which outlines measures to promote and compel compliance as well as the relevant criteria and tools for addressing non-compliance issues.

As a result of the process, the audit should also enable the institution to further evaluate and modify processes to ensure it does or continues to meet its legal responsibilities. It should also allow an institution to identify processes and personnel contributing to best practice within the institution. The audit report is designed to fulfil the requirements and document the outcomes as per Appendix 1 of the Code.

Details of the audit protocol can be found here.

Complaints and grievances

For any complaints and grievances regarding the use of animals within Swinburne please provide the following information to the SAEC via the Secretary, SAEC:

  • Time and date of incident
  • Incident of concern
  • Animal species involved
  • Room number or location
  • CI of project
  • SAEC approval number (if known)
  • Reported by
  • Reported to

National guidelines for care and use of animals for scientific purposes

Victorian Government requirements for use of animals in research & teaching

Are you involved in research that uses animals at other institutions?

If you are involved in research that uses animals at other institutions you must provide the Swinburne AEC with details of your involvement in the research, the application put to the other institutional AEC and the approval certificate or notification. You will then be informed if your involvement in that research is exempt from Swinburne AEC review.

This also applies if you are named on an application to the AEC of another institution.