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Frequently Asked Questions

Select from the following for more information:

1. What's an IACUC, an NIH Assurance, an APF, and an OLAC?

Any faculty, staff or student engaged in SDSU-related activities involving live vertebrate animals in captivity or in the wild must have approval for these activities so that SDSU remains in compliance with federal guidelines.  SDSU maintains an assurance, a document filed with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Public Health Service  (PHS), Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) that describes how the campus will comply with all relevant  guidelines. Many opportunities to obtain funds for research and facilities development would not be available to SDSU if the campus failed to comply with this assurance.

By law, institutions using animals must designate an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) to ensure  that any animals involved are treated properly. This committee is composed of faculty, staff, and community members, and the campus veterinarian, all of whom are appointed by the SDSU Vice President for Research. The IACUC has the responsibility and authority for reviewing all activities involving animals, whether the activity is carried out on  State or Research Foundation property (both of which are considered "on campus") or at off campus locations. Animal  Protocol Forms (APFs) have been developed to facilitate approval for these activities.

SDSU's Office of Laboratory Animal Care (OLAC) is responsible for the day-to-day care of animals housed on State or Research Foundation property and works closely with the IACUC. This office also serves as the main resource for  technical information concerning procedures, facilities available, training, permits, animal user fees, and other related issues involving research, teaching and other activities involving animals.

2. When is approval of an activity required by the IACUC?

Types of activities requiring IACUC approval include teaching, basic and applied research, and testing activities conducted under the auspices of SDSU or the SDSU Research Foundation where University (or Research Foundation) personnel bear some responsibility for the health and well being of live vertebrate animals involved. There are no exceptions to this requirement. Nevertheless, questions have arisen from time to time as to the documentation required by the IACUC, for example projects being conducted in accordance with the current approval of an IACUC at another institution. Any questions about whether or not an activity involving live animals needs IACUC approval should be discussed with the IACUC Chair (

To facilitate approval for different types of projects, the IACUC has developed three APF formats, one for work on campus, one for field work, and one for tissue collection only. Some examples of activities for which SDSU researchers need IACUC approval include but are not limited to:

• SDSU graduate student research with or without funding;
• Classroom demonstrations using live animals;
• Field trips to collect or observe vertebrates;
• Observation of animals in the wild or in captivity (e.g., San Diego Zoo);
• Analysis of tissues from animals that others have collected;
• Field testing of an apparatus designed to be used in fish aquaculture;
• Collection of freshly deposited eggs from vertebrate animals to study embryological development (note that the IACUC must be concerned with all life stages of vertebrates);
• Testing of chemical or biological materials for safety or efficacy in a vertebrate animal; and,
• Generation of transgenic or other genetically altered animals.

Strictly observational studies, whether the animal is unrestrained in the field or held in an enclosed space, must also be approved in so far as even the presence of the observer could potentially affect the psychological and physical health and well being of the animal. These projects also may require compliance with state and federal wildlife protection laws.

Individuals receiving only tissue specimens from dead animals for these activities should discuss the specific circumstances with the IACUC. Under some circumstances, projects involving nonregulated (e.g., not threatened or endangered) species that were used for another fully authorized and unrelated purpose and were to be discarded anyway ("samples of opportunity") may not need review by the entire IACUC or may be approvable using a Tissue Collection Only APF. This should not be assumed, however, and it is expected that any faculty, student, or employee of SDSU or the SDSU Research Foundation about to engage in these activities will contact the IACUC to discuss specific cases and will complete the necessary forms to obtain approval.

Projects that involve collection or generation of materials (e.g., chemicals, biological material, etc.) by SDSU faculty, students or staff that will be sent to a collaborating group for testing or other work using live vertebrate animals must have documentation on file confirming that the collaborating off campus facility is approved to conduct those procedures. The level of responsibility and involvement of campus personnel in these projects varies and abbreviated documentation may suffice in some cases (see section below discussing work conducted at other facilities with IACUCs). Therefore, investigators are encouraged to contact the IACUC about issues that should be addressed in this documentation to ensure that the investigator is meeting requirements.

3. What kinds of training are needed and available?

The SDSU IACUC is mandated by the federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (9 CFR Chapter 1, Subpart C, Section 2.32), the ILAR Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (1996), and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, to ensure all scientists, research technicians, animals technicians, and other personnel involved in animal care, treatment and use are qualified to perform their duties. Anyone listed on an APF as having any rights or responsibilities on a project must undergo this mandated training before beginning work involving animals. Training for the SDSU IACUC can be accessed on the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) website.  Evidence of training must be maintained by the IACUC and "refresher" basic training is required every three years during an ongoing project, to maintain current knowledge regulations and guidelines. Specialized health and safety training for principal investigators, staff, and students conducting work involving animals is also now a requirement. Contact the IACUC office at (619) 594-4165 or if you or someone new to your group requires this training. Failure to meet training requirements will delay approval of a protocol.

The Office of Laboratory Animal Care can be contacted at (619) 594-5421 for hands on training in specific procedures. The OLAC office also houses a growing collection of books, videos, and other resources to facilitate training.

4. When and how often should APFs be submitted to the IACUC?

An APF should be submitted for a project involving vertebrate animals when the principal investigator receives a favorable score from a funding agency and the proposal is expected to be funded. If funding is approved, the SDSU Research Foundation will not authorize the use of funds until the investigator has an approved APF.

Students conducting research needing IACUC approval should discuss the need for this with their research advisor well before beginning this work. The most appropriate time for submitting the necessary request to the IACUC is after the thesis committee approves the research proposal and the student is advanced to candidacy. In many cases a student may be covered under his/her advisor's approved APF if the procedures are the same and the student has received the necessary training.

In the case of teaching activities, approval is needed before animals are used in the classroom or laboratory. Field trips involving interactions with animals or the potential to disturb animal habitats should also be brought to the attention of the IACUC.

Each project and class activity must be reviewed annually. For ongoing projects the investigator (or instructor) is expected to submit APF Renewal Forms at the appropriate time to ensure continuation of the approval. Two annual renewals are allowed before an entirely new APF must be completed (i.e., approval is potentially in force for up to three years).

The IACUC has a regular monthly meeting schedule during the academic year. See Meeting Dates and Deadlines for upcoming meeting dates and submission deadlines. Detailed instructions for completing new and modification/renewal APFs are available. Applicants are also encouraged to contact the IACUC for additional questions and guidance to facilitate this process.

5. What is needed for approval of SDSU or Research Foundation sponsored work conducted in off campus facilities that have IACUCs?

Any SDSU faculty, staff or student conducting work involving live vertebrate animals at another facility (e.g., university, San Diego Zoo, pharmaceutical or other private firm, Hubbs Sea World Institute, contract testing laboratory, NIH/CDC) that has an IACUC that reviews and approves protocols still needs to have SDSU-approved documentation on file before beginning work. The IACUC works in coordination with the SDSU Research Foundation, the Graduate Division, and other administrative offices on campus. Prior knowledge of these projects by the IACUC ensures no misunderstandings and good communication when other approvals are needed (e.g., Research Foundation contract and grant routing forms, Thesis Committee Appointment Forms, Materials Transfer Agreements, Biological Use Authorization form, etc.). There are essentially no exceptions to the requirement for IACUC approval when live vertebrate animals are involved. However, the requirement for these projects reviewed elsewhere by an authorized IACUC is typically a description of the work to be done accompanied by a copy of the current approval from the collaborating facility showing an appropriate contact person at that facility, all sent to the IACUC for review. Supplementary information about the other facility might conceivably be required if the collaborating group is not widely recognized as having appropriate expertise or an IACUC. A more detailed APF can be submitted in lieu of this alternate documentation. All project approvals are granted on a case-by-case basis, as federal guidelines and policies are subject to change. Therefore, when in doubt, it is advisable to contact the IACUC ( for verification of what is needed prior to submission of an APF for these types of projects.

Any materials transferred off (or onto) campus that might be considered proprietary and have potential economic value also require completion of a Materials Transfer Agreement.
6. Which areas are subject to IACUC semi-annual or other inspections?

All SDSU campus areas (including vivaria, prep areas, laboratories, classrooms, and Research Foundation space) where live vertebrate animals are housed for more than 24 hours must be inspected semi-annually by the IACUC. Laboratories where work involving live vertebrates is being conducted may be inspected at the discretion of the IACUC. These areas must be open for IACUC inspection at any time, not just for semi-annual inspections.

If an authorized individual ensures that an area has not had animals in it for some time and he/she does not intend to have any more within six months before the next regular inspection, then the IACUC has the option to postpone the inspection visit until just prior to when animals would be introduced.

If an off-campus facility where animals are being held does not have an IACUC, then the IACUC is also required to conduct at least semi-annual inspections of that location.

When the other institution or facility has an NIH Assurance and IACUC that is expected to conduct their own semi-annual inspections, this location does not have to be among those inspected semi-annually by SDSU's IACUC. However, the IACUC might under certain circumstances find good reason to want to enter that facility to ensure the health and well being of these animals covered under an approved SDSU APF. If this occurs and permission is not granted, then an APF may be suspended until the issue is resolved.

Field sites do not currently require inspection but the IACUC and veterinarian must be allowed to visit and inspect these sites and observe procedures involving live vertebrates.

7. What about pets on campus?

IACUC oversight does not extend to pets unless they are being used in research or teaching activities on campus. Contact the IACUC ( for more information.

To contact program admin support:

Division of Research Affairs

Animal Care and Use Program
Gateway Center, 3rd floor

San Diego State University
5250 Campanile Dr.
Mail Code 1933
San Diego, CA 92182

Phone: 619-594-0905