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Veterinary & Animal Medicine

When to Search for Alternatives

The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) requires a database search when your protocol involves USDA-covered species at Pain Categories D and E. You must conduct a literature search in at least two databases to show:

  • the work does not unnecessarily duplicate previously published work
  • the researchers have sought alternatives to EACH potentially painful/distressful procedure proposed

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the library involved with IACUC?
Librarians are experts in information retrieval, so we can help you find more relevant information, and less irrelevant information.

Is searching for alternatives a waste of time? 
Searching for alternatives is valuable. You'll familiarize yourself with the relevant literature, and you may discover better approaches.

What is a search for alternatives?
Russell and Birch write that alternatives or alternative methods "incorporate some aspect of replacement, reduction, or refinement of animal use in pursuit of the minimization of animal pain and distress consistent with the goals of the research.”

A database search effectively and efficiently demonstrates compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures.

Replacement: Can I replace the animals with non-animal models, in vitro methods, or a phylogenetically lower animal?

Reduction: Can I reduce the number of animals in my experiment?

Refinement: Can I refine my protocol by making procedures less painful, providing a humane endpoint, or making the lab less stressful?

NIH Best Practices for Conducting a Search for Alternatives and Finding Animal Model/Model Organism Information