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Durham University

Research and Innovation Services


What needs Review?

At Durham University all animal-related work, whether inside or outside the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, must receive review where it involves a 'protected animal' under the Act (see Definitions). In some circumstances, other animal-related work may also require review (see point e below).

The types of activity requiring review include:

a. Observing ‘protected animals’ within their natural or an artificial environment. Observation can be passive e.g. bird watching, or active e.g GPS tagging of individual animals; it can relate to an individual animal or collection of animals, e.g. a flock of birds, and may be direct or indirect.

This only applies when the animals are the subject of the observation. For example a project to undertake a hydrological survey of the sea bed with sonar may incidentally involve the observation of schools of fish however the fish are not the subject of the study so this would not require review. A project which aimed to track fish movements via the use of sonar, although experimentally very similar, does have fish as the subject so would need review.

b. Capturing ‘protected animals’ (permanently or temporarily)

This include trapping and short term capture for the purposes of tagging.

c. Manipulating ‘protected animals’. Manipulation covers any experimentation within a laboratory environment, handling, care, husbandry, or other interaction with animals.

Please note this is not just experimentation as traditionally thought of, for example where a mouse navigates a maze or behavioral conditioning; it also includes projects involving animals in their natural or normal environemnt – feeding studies, studies on the benefits of pet ownership to stress etc.

d. Using any data obtained by the observation, capture or manipulation of protected animals

Please note this applies especially to data collected (by others) specifically for the purposes of your research / activity, or which has been collected by an organisation / group and not subject to ethical review. The committee is not normally interested in research based on publically available / historical animal datasets.

e. Other consideration which requires review by the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board (e.g. use of animal tissue which raises ethical concerns)

AWERB’s remit covers projects which involving living animals. If your project involves obtaining animals solely for the purpose of culling them to obtain tissue, these animals are still under AWERB's remit and the project will require review. Where projects utilise animal tissue which is sourced as dead tissue, i.e. tissue not harvested from culled animals that otherwise come under AWERB’s remit, this does not normally need to be considered by AWERB. However, there may be situations in which the source of the tissue raises ethical concerns, for example if tissue has been obtained in a manner which would not be permissible in the UK, e.g. from whaling or other activities involving hunting of endangered species. In such cases the issue should be raised with the AWERB secretary in the first instance and the project may be referred to AWERB for advice. Please contact the AWERB secretary, including information about: the tissue to be used and its source, the purpose of the project, and a summary of potential ethical issues and any proposed action to mitigate concerns.

If your project does not fit any of the types of activity above, but it does involve animals and you think it may raise ethical concerns, you should seek advice from the AWERB secretary.

How is the University review carried out?

All projects involving protected animals require review from the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Board. You can find details on our processes and all the relevant forms on the AWERB webpages.

What projects require a Home Office License?

Animal-related work under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 is regulated and licensed by the Home Office. Any research which involves carrying out regulated procedures on protected animals (as defined by the Animals Scientific Procedures Act) and which takes place in the UK or a jurisdiction covered by UK law must be covered by a Home Office License.

Although the term license is often used in the singular, it actually refers to three distinct licences:

  1. Establishment Licence
    The Establishment Licence allows the University to undertake regulated procedures on its premises.
  2. Project Licence
    The Project Licence covers a programme of work. It authorises specified regulated procedures to animals of specified descriptions at a specified place or specified places
  3. Personal Licence
    This is a licence for a specific individual to undertake work covered by the project and establishment licences. If you do not have one of these then you will need to undertake the Home Office Licence training before it will be granted.

Which additional licenses you will need to apply for will depend on what is already covered by existing licenses. If your project is within the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act then you will go through a slightly different AWERB approval.

Guidance on completing an application, and specifically on writing the non-technical summary, is provided.


Definition of Protected Animals

The Act defines protected animals as: 'all living vertebrates, other than man, and any living cephalopod. Fish and amphibia are protected once they can feed independently and cephalopods at the point when they hatch. Embryonic and foetal forms of mammals, birds and reptiles are protected during the last third of their gestation or incubation period.

Definition of Regulated Procedure

A procedure is regulated if it is carried out on a protected animal and may cause that animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice.

Procedures may be regulated if they involve doing something, such as dosing or 33 sampling, or not doing something, such as withholding food or water.