US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Institutional Animal Care & Use

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The USFS R&D Institutional Animal Care & Use (IACUC) provides institutional guidance to assist USFS fish and wildlife research scientists in complying with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), its corresponding regulations (AWAR), and the Interagency Research Animal Committee's (IRAC) U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training.

The USFS R&D IACUC is charged with the responsibility to ensure USFS compliance with the AWA, the AWAR, and the IRAC U.S. Government Principles, to support USFS animal welfare policies consistent with high standards of science and natural resource stewardship in USFS, and to provide continuing animal welfare education and training for all USFS employees working with animals.

All USFS R&D researchers intending to use vertebrate animals in their research, teaching, and testing activities must submit proposals to the USFS R&D IACUC for review and approval. Research studies involving animal activities may not commence until IACUC approval has been received.

The USFS is an officially registered federal research institution with USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Care (USDA APHIS AC) since October 2015.


The USFS R&D IACUC is composed of the AWAR required core members (Chair, Attending Veterinarian, and Unaffiliated Member), one additional Unaffiliated Member, and 2 members (a primary and alternate member) from each of the 5 R&D research stations.


This website is intended to provide general information on the USFS R&D IACUC and current animal welfare laws, regulations, policies, and guidelines in the United States. For more detailed inquiries, questions, or concerns please contact the USFS R&D IACUC directly by email:

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does the Forest Service use animals in research?

Forest Service wildlife research focuses on understanding fish and wildlife and habitat use to inform land management decisions. In order to understand fish and wildlife and habitat use, Forest Service wildlife researchers sometimes capture, track and take samples from fish and wildlife. For more on Forest Service fish and wildlife research, see Wildlife & Fish.

What criteria does the Forest Service IACUC use for reviewing proposals for the use of animals?

The IACUC reviews proposals to ensure that Forest Service research activities will be conducted in compliance with all applicable legal requirements including the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Government Principles and Forest Service policies such as the Research & Development Code of Scientific Ethics.

The Animal Welfare Act requires the IACUC to review proposals to work with animals using the three R's: Replace, Reduce and Refine. Researchers are asked to consider replacing the use of animals with non-animal alternatives, reducing the number of animals used to the minimum needed to obtain scientifically valid results, and refining research methods so that animals experience the least possible amount of pain and distress.

What is the Animal Welfare Act? And the Animal Welfare Act Regulations?

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), first enacted in 1966, gave authority to USDA APHIS to regulate the humane care and use of animals in research, teaching, testing, experimentation, or exhibition. In 1970, the AWA was amended to include all warm-blooded animals.

The AWA requires that each research facility establish a committee with the ability to assess the proper care and treatment of animals, and any practices involving pain and distress to the animals; to periodically inspect the research facility; to ensure compliance with the AWA regulations; and to represent society's concerns regarding the general welfare of animals used at the facility. This Committee is termed the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC).

View the Animal Welfare Act.

How does the AWA define field studies? Are field studies subject to IACUC oversight?

AWA defines field studies as studies conducted on free-living wild animals in their natural habitat. Field studies that are not invasive, do not harm, or materially alter the behavior of the animal under study are exempted from the AWA and IACUC oversight. However, those field studies which do not meet that exemption are subject to IACUC review and site inspection. This also pertains to captive wildlife and wild animals held in captivity for more than 12 hours. The IACUC determines if field studies meet this exemption.

What are the U.S. Government Principles?

The U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals in Testing, Research and Training (U.S. Government Principles) are a set of principles developed by the Interagency Research Animal Committee (IRAC) for U.S. government agencies to use in "develop[ing] requirements for testing, research, or training procedures involving the use of vertebrate animals." All U.S. government agencies involved in animal research - including the USDA participated in IRAC. The U.S. Government principles encourage the humane, responsible use of animals in research and the application of the three R's of animal research. That is, replace animals with alternative non-animal methods, reduce the number of animals used, and refine research methods in order to improve animal well-being and minimize pain.

View the US Government Principles.