By Christine Charlebois, Associate Director for Global Research Compliance, Merck

As the lab animal technician, you are the person doing the hands on work in the lab.  Dosing, bleeding, anesthesia, restraint, surgical nursing; you do it all.  But where do you find the instructions for the activities you perform? There are many resources for getting this information; however the BEST source is the IACUC protocol.


The IACUC protocol is the detailed description of the proposed use of laboratory animals.  Think of it as a contract approved by the IACUC for all research with animals.  Everyone who participates on the study is required to follow the protocol, nothing more, and nothing less.  So, have you read the protocol?

Below are a few examples of helpful information found in the protocol:

  • Dose volume and route
  • Blood volumes and route
  • List of approved analgesics and anesthetics
  • Clinical signs
  • Observation intervals
  • Post operative care plans
  • Feeding regimen
  • Emergency contact information

IACUC protocols are accessible as a hard copy or electronically. Regardless of the format, you will need to read the protocol and follow it exactly. Before you begin working on the study, request a hard copy or access to the electronic version to review the procedures and methods described in the protocol.  If you see something in the protocol that doesn’t match your service request, or does not match current practices, bring the discrepancy to your supervisor or the Principal Investigator.  A search of the AWA Inspection Reports on the USDA-APHIS website reveals repeated citations stating “animal activities are not being conducted as outlined in the protocol”.   This is an easy citation to avoid.

So, when you go to work tomorrow, ask for a copy of the protocol.  Read the protocol. Ask questions if you see a discrepancy.  Then, when someone asks you “Have you read the protocol lately?” you can answer a resounding “Yes!”


AuthorCaroline Thompson