To establish the UC Davis policy for the use of shelter animals in research and teaching at UC Davis as well as projects conducted within animal shelters.
The use of random source animals, those from animal shelters, or Class B dealers for general biomedical research often raises concerns/questions with members of the public. UC Davis has elected not to use animals from shelters or class B dealers for biomedical research. There are, however, activities such as teaching within the School of Veterinary Medicine that benefit both the students and the animals/shelters. The students gain valuable hands on experience and the animals get procedures such as spayed/neutered, receive veterinary care, are socialized, and can be placed for adoption. There is also a growing need for research within shelters directed at improving the health of the animals within the shelter environment. In this policy, the word “shelter” is used for any pound or animal regulation department of a public or private agency where animals are relinquished dead or alive.
Use of shelter animals for research - campus
Animal shelters and class B dealers are not to be used as a source for live animals for the purposes of general biomedical research.
Use of shelter animals for teaching – School of Veterinary Medicine
Shelter animals may be used for teaching and training activities within the School of Veterinary Medicine if the following conditions are met:
- The animal population is either abandoned or owner-surrender.
- For abandoned animals, the shelter must comply with both California and municipality law for the designated “hold period”, such that animals are only used in teaching or training once the hold period has been completed.
- The procedures conducted are routine veterinary procedures and approved in an IACUC protocol.
- Procedures are non-terminal.
- The animals are returned to the shelter following teaching and training activities for the shelter to manage under their shelter policies.
- Teaching colony animals that are adopted from the shelters and owned by the university will be adopted from the university according to the IACUC adoption policy and cannot be used for general biomedical research.
Use of shelter animals for research – School of Veterinary Medicine
UC Davis supports applied research conducted on shelter animals that benefits shelter animals and falls within the following categories:
- A study that is undertaken within the shelter in which no procedures or tests are carried out on the shelter animal, no drugs are administered to the shelter animal, and the shelter environment is not altered, e.g. video-recording shelter animal behavior, or measuring food or water consumption in shelter animals.
- A study that does not harm the participating shelter animals and may directly benefit the participating shelter animals, e.g. a drug study that may decrease the risk of a shelter animal becoming ill from a shelter-obtained infectious disease.
- A study that does not harm the participating shelter animals, may not directly benefit the participating shelter animals but may contribute beneficially to the health and welfare of shelter animals as a population, e.g., a study collecting samples or specimens that indicates an animal has been exposed to a disease in order to determine the incidence of that disease in a shelter population.
The following criteria must be met:
- Any animal used in research (live or dead) must be received only from the owner-surrender population in compliance with California Civil Code 1834.5(e) that prohibits the use of abandoned animals for scientific or other type of experimentation.
- The shelter complies with California Civil Code 1834.7(a) which requires providing notice by posting and owner surrender forms that animals turned into the shelter may be used for research purposes. The signed owner surrender forms are on file at the shelter.
- The intent of the study is to directly improve the health or welfare of shelter animals.
- No illness will be induced or other procedures performed that may adversely impact the animal’s health or welfare. If the study is focused on a particular disease, the disease must be spontaneously occurring in the shelter animals.
- The procedures performed on the animals are those that a practicing veterinarian would perform on a client-owned animal.
- Drug safety/toxicity studies will not be performed on shelter animals. Novel drugs or novel use of drugs must be proven safe before use in shelter animals. Drug efficacy studies must be accompanied by supporting documentation that details relevant safety/toxicity data. In both cases, the information obtained from a drug study must be relevant to the shelter animal and/or the shelter environment and may contribute beneficially to the health and welfare of shelter animals.
- All animals involved in an approved study will receive, at a minimum, the standard of care normally provided at that shelter. Inclusion in any approved study, will not preclude the provision of medical care to any animal that may require that care during the study and may include withdrawal from the study.
- Animals must be allowed to be adopted at all times according to the shelter’s polices even if the animals are on a study.
- Use of cadavers from shelters for research and teaching:
The use of cadavers or tissues obtained through the shelter for research and teaching is acceptable when the following conditions are met:
- The animals were humanely euthanized according to the shelter’s policies and not for the purposes of research or teaching.
- The animals used for research come from the owner-surrendered population in compliance with California Civil Code 1834.5(e) that prohibits the use of abandoned animals for scientific or other type of experimentation.
- When cadavers are used for research, the shelter complies with California Civil Code 1834.7(a) which requires providing notice by posting and owner surrender forms that animals turned into the shelter may be used for research purposes. The signed owner surrender forms are on file at the shelter.
- Use of cadavers or tissues for teaching veterinary students or residents takes priority over use of cadavers or tissues for other teaching or research.
- Use of cadavers or tissues for shelter-specific research takes priority over use of cadavers or tissues for general biomedical research.
- Cadavers or tissues will be provided free of charge.
Members of the university are not permitted to contact any shelters independently. All projects will be coordinated through the IACUC office. This will ensure the appropriate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the university and the shelter is in place.
All research projects involving live shelter animals require IACUC approval prior to conducting research. IACUC protocols are only required for teaching if the use of the animals is part of a scheduled teaching session. Protocols must be initially submitted to the IACUC and accompanied by a 1-page lay description of the proposed research or teaching, including a clear statement of the benefit of the research or teaching to shelter animals that can be shared with the Shelter Director or designee.
Before IACUC review, all research projects involving live shelter animals will be forwarded by IACUC staff to the School of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Research Committee for review and approval. After completion of review by the Shelter Research Committee, the Committee Chair will contact the identified shelter to ascertain if the shelter is willing to participate in the study and if the animal needs for the study can be met.
Request for cadavers and animal tissue for research should be submitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine Shelter Research Committee for review of the request for suitability and priority. Requests should include a clear statement of requirements, including how the research will benefit shelter animals or animal populations. After completion of review by the Shelter Research Committee, the Committee Chair will contact the identified shelter to ascertain if the shelter is willing to provide cadavers and if the animal needs can be met. All arrangement for pick-up and transport of cadavers will be made by the Gourley Clinical Teaching Center. The Gourley Clinical Teaching Center will contact investigators when suitable cadavers or tissues are available.
 This prohibition does not include disease surveillance studies that are specific to diseases known to be present in the shelter environment and undertaken for the purpose of monitoring a specific disease within the shelter. These studies are considered veterinary care rather than experimentation and may be performed on both owner-surrender and abandoned animals following their designated “hold period” as long as the other criteria in this section are met.