Transportation of Rodents

Introduction

Transportation of research animals is often necessary to accomplish research goals. These include, but are not limited to, transportation to the PI laboratory for survival studies; transportation to the PI laboratory for terminal studies; transportation to designated core equipment areas such as MRI, ultrasound (US) or rodent surgery; and transportation to facilitate collaboration between investigators, either at the same or different institutions. A number of concerns must be addressed in order to accomplish the transportation with minimum impact on animal welfare and study parameters and in accordance with regulatory guidelines. These include, but are not limited to, animal welfare; compliance with federal, state and local regulations; impact on the public perception of animal research; and containment of any zoonotic and hazardous agents.

INSTITUTIONAL POLICIES

Boston University (BU) adheres to all federal and Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) guidelines and institutional environmental health and safety policies, and specifically promotes the following policies:

A. To minimize stress to the animals by minimizing temperature fluctuations, vibrations, noise, and movement.

B. To minimize health risks to BU colony animals from murine pathogens.

C. To minimize exposure of other personnel and the public to allergens from laboratory animals.

D. To protect occupants of the building, and drivers of vehicles used for transportation, from allergens of animal origin, microorganisms, chemicals, radioactive materials and escaped animals.

E. To minimize the time spent in public hallways, building lobbies, patient areas, study areas, or other laboratories, when rodents are transported between laboratories and the animal housing areas or study areas. Designated freight elevators must be used whenever available.

F. To prevent viewing of the animals by members of the general public.

G. To prevent escape of transported animals and concern by the public for exposure to any actual or perceived zoonotic pathogens.
In order to optimize compliance with above polices, Boston University specifies when it is appropriate for investigators to transport their own rodents and how they will be transported, and when BU ASC or designated or commercial carriers must be used.

WHO TRANSPORTS THE ANIMALS?

Federal regulations and AAALAC do not specify who transports the animals and under what circumstances research staff may be responsible for transport and when animal care staff or a commercial carrier is used. Climate controlled specially designed vehicles are used by commercial vendors. Some institutions have a designated, climate controlled vehicle for animal transport within campus or between institutional campuses. BU ASC does have such a vehicle..
In order to optimize research support as well as assuring animal welfare and regulatory compliance and safety, for animals, as well as for people, Boston University IACUC and EH&S have approved the following procedures for transport of rodents.

A BU ASC STAFF PERFORMS ALL RODENT TRANSPORT EXCEPT AS DESCRIBED BELOW.

B. THIS POLICY DESCRIBES RODENT TRANSPORT BY INVESTIGATORS AND RESEARCH STAFF.

C. WHERE PROCEDURES DIFFER BETWEEN THE MEDICAL CAMPUS AND THE CHARLES RIVER CAMPUS THIS IS INDICATED IN ITALICS UNDER EACH HEADING

ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION AND CAGE CARDS

A. Rodents transported in their home cage will retain the cage card holder and cage card including ID on their cage card.

B. Rodents tranported in a temporary container will retain their cage card for placement on the new cage.

TRANSPORT OF RODENTS FROM BARRIERS TO LABORATORY OR CORE STUDY AREA

Transport from the Barriers is ONE-WAY ONLY. Rodents do not return to Barriers. These transports are often within the same building but may also be between buildings on campus.
Transport from the Rodent Barrier Facilities to laboratory or core study area is done by research staff. Disposable cages/containers/home cages are available for use by research staff for one-way transport to lab or core study area for terminal use rodents. All transport containers must be sealable to prevent animal escape, opaque to obscure visibility of animal or be in secondary container that is opaque. If using a non-vented plastic container (non-shipping crate), minimize the duration of transport to research laboratory and immediately use. Non-vented plastic containers are not allowed for animal transport if animal holding is for more than 30 minute duration.
BUASC Rodents destined for a nonbarrier housing room after study require the submission of a transport document. Please submit this request 3 days before needed. See XI.B.
Dirty barrier cages, plastic shipping crates, plastic containers are returned to animal facility and left at designated sites at/in vicinity of soiled cage wash rooms. Dirty cages, crates, plastic containers DO NOT return or reenter any Barrier facility.

TRANSPORT TO ANOTHER ANIMAL ROOM OR ANIMAL FACILITY ON CAMPUS

BU ASC performs ALL transport between animal rooms or animal facilities.
When rodents need to be transferred between animal facilities and/or animal rooms on campus, PI or Designated Research Staff completes required transfer documents [See XI. Documents Required for Approval of TRANSPORT/TRANSFER] at least three (3) business days BEFORE animals must be moved. BUASC staff then reviews request and if there are no issues/concerns packs and transfers rodents to the new animal room/animal facility, where they are unpacked and placed in their new home cage.

INVESTIGATORS/RESEARCH STAFF: PACKING RODENTS FOR TRANSPORT WITHIN CAMPUS

A. For transport between the animal room and the laboratory or core study areas:

1. Rodents are transported in their own home cage covered with filter top or in a clean home cage with filter top or in a disposable cage.
2. If rodents are to be returned to the animal room the same space on the shelf and rack is reserved with a SPACE RESERVED CARD/ANIMALS WILL RETURN (available in animal rooms).
3. A single cage may be carried; if you need to transport more than one cage, use a cart. The cart must have an edge to prevent cages from slipping over and falling on the floor. Cages may be stacked to 3 cages high providing they are secured with straps, plastic wrap, cart side panels, or a cover to prevent movement of cages during transport or spillage of cages and are designed to be stacked.
4. Reverse the water bottle or, if necessary, remove it, so the movement of the cart will not cause the cage to flood.
5. If water bottle is removed, bring it along to provide water on arrival to Lab or Study area.
6. Secure each cage top to prevent escape using 1” white adhesive tape, plastic cable ties or heavy duty rubber band. The following supplies are provided by BUASC on a cart at animal room entry/exit points – white adhesive tape, rubber bands, opaque cart cover.
7. Cover all cages with a designated cart cover – designed to fit around the cart securely.
8. The cart enclosure must be opaque and provide adequate ventilation.
9. Take the animal(s) directly to their destination. Do not stop along the way.

B. INVESTIGATORS/RESEARCH STAFF: UNPACKING RODENTS AFTER TRANSPORT

1. Rodents must be unpacked as soon as possible and within an hour of arrival to the destination.
2. The individual responsible for the transport must assure that all rodents are well and that no injury has occurred during transport.
3. If rodents were transported in their own cage the water bottle must be turned and/or restored to the cage. Make sure that the water flows and that there is not an air bubble trapped in the sipper tube.
4. Cages used in laboratories and study areas must be returned by PI or research staff to the designated cage-wash area for sanitation.
5. Any/all dirty cages and/or transport carts are left at designated locations, adjacent vicinity to soiled cage wash room, within specific animal facilities. Dirty cages or transport carts are NOT returned to any Barrier Facility.

SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS MUST BE TAKEN WHEN TRANSPORTING RODENTS TO LAB OR STUDY AREA WITHIN CAMPUS WHEN:

A. Rodents on infectious disease studies (ABSL-2 only)

Between animal room and PI Laboratory or Study Area within or between buildings on campus: Rodents on ABSL-2 studies are transported packed in shipping crates (available from BUASC), or disposable cage or home cage placed inside a leak-proof, shatter-proof secondary container. PI or research staff to pack and unpack rodents. The crates must be labeled “ABSL-2.”

B. Rodents treated with chemical agents, toxins or radioisotopes

Between animal room and PI Laboratory or Study Area within or between buildings on campus: Rodents treated with hazardous chemicals, toxins or radioisotopes are transported packed in shipping crates (available from BUASC) or disposable cage or home cage placed inside a leak-proof, shatter-proof secondary container. PI or research staff to pack and unpack rodents. The crates must be labeled “Biological Hazard” or “Chemical Hazard” or “Radioisotope.” Extra precautions may be required per Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) protocol and laboratory-specific SOPs for the chemical agent, toxin or radioisotope in question.

C. Rodents from a room where sentinel surveillance has identified a murine pathogen present

1. Transport and exposure of other rodents must be minimized.
2. Each case is handled on an individual basis in collaboration with the BUASC veterinary staff.

D. Rodents transported between buildings

1. Assure that rodents are packed in their home cage secured with tape or shipping crate and cannot escape.
2. Assure that rodents are covered with an opaque drape or comparable material so that animals are not visible.
3. Assure that rodents are protected from environmental extremes, including temperatures (hot or cold) or precipitation (rain or snow), during transport. The IACUC discourages transport during temperature extremes, temps >85oF or <45oF, and encourages PI to minimize exposure time in this circumstances. Note that heat or cold stress will cause animal stress and may affect research results or animal survival if the animal is compromised.
4. Take the animals directly to their destination. Do not stop along the way.

PORTS OF ENTRY AND EXIT

Whenever possible during animal transport, entries and exits used by the public should be avoided. Every effort must be made to avoid the main, front entrance and use a side door.
BUMC: No specific doors required.
CRC:
1. 24 Cummington Mall Rm. 107 Use Cummington Mall “Receiving” entrance
2. 590 Commonwealth Ave., Use Blandford St. side entrance.

DECONTAMINATION OF CARTS USED FOR TRANSPORT OF ANIMALS BY INVESTIGATORS

NOTE: The disinfectant chosen should be the one required for use in the animal room and appropriate for the agents in use. Alcohol disinfectants are not an appropriate choice for the decontamination of animal transport carts due to the rapid evaporation and short contact time.
A. All carts need to be sprayed down after each use with a virucidal and anti-bactericidal compound such as 10% freshly made bleach solution, MB-10 or a quarternary ammonium compound, or Virkon. This should include at a minimum all surfaces plus wheels. Minimum contact time to allow the chemical to deactivate the agent must be followed.

B. All such carts should be totally cleaned weekly. This can be done by the lab using a disinfectant such as MB-10 or Virkon on all surfaces.

ONE-WAY TRANSPORT FROM BU CAMPUS TO ANOTHER INSTITUTION

A. Transport between BU and other institutions (vendors excluded) within or outside the Greater Boston Area
1. BUASC staff packs rodents.
2. Designated vehicles and drivers or commercial carrier (land and air travel) are used.

B. Transport to and from airport for shipping or receiving
BU designated vehicles and drivers or commercial carrier (land and air travel).

C. EXCEPTIONS TO GREATER BOSTON AREA TRANSPORT – ONE-WAY ONLY
PIs or Research staff may transport rodents in their own private vehicles TO facilities at other institutions only after IACUC review and approval and in compliance with BU Policies as stated in this document. The following procedures must be observed:
1. Rodents are packed in a shipping crate by BUASC staff and are NOT shipped in their cages.
2. Both the shipping institution and the receiving institution must have signed off on the shipment and the shipping method.
3. Inter-institutional transport must be approved in the IACUC protocol.
4. Documentation as noted below must be filed with BUASC 5 business days prior to the planned transport.
5. The receiving institution must approve the arrival of the rodents prior to transport.
6. No animals are allowed for transport off campus after they are treated with ABSL-2 agents or
other hazardous agents, including hazardous chemicals, toxins or radioisotopes.

D. Transportation in a personal vehicle must comply with the following:
1. The shipping crate is placed on a disposable cover on the floor inside the vehicle.
2. Shipping crate is placed in the interior, temperature-controlled part of the vehicle, not in the trunk or on the back of a truck.
3. Driver is to proceed promptly and directly to destination.

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR APPROVAL OF TRANSPORT

A. Transport TO and FROM PI Lab or Core Facility
For transport between the animal room and the PI laboratory or core study areas: IACUC approval as described and approved in the IACUC protocol.
B. Transport between PIs, PROTOCOLS and ANIMAL ROOMS in the same institution
Animal Transport -Transfer Request
C. Transport between a BU campus and other institution
Request to Import Rodents
OR
Request to Export Rodents
Submit as directed at least five (5) business days before the planned transport.
D. Interstate transportation
Same as C plus USDA Certificate of Health documents. Available from BU veterinary staff.
E. Air transportation
Same D plus Carrier shipping documents. Available from BU veterinary staff.

PACKING FOR TRANSPORT:

If BUASC does the packing it must be requested by PI five (5) business days before transport.
A. Transport using shipping crates. Shipping crates that will prevent escape and/or injury must be used.1. Rodents are packed in a clean and autoclaved shipping crate (Taconic/Jackson/CRL) with bedding.
2. Food and a non-spillable source of water such as NapaNectar is provided.
3. If more than one cage is transferred to one shipping container, cage dividers must be placed and secured.
4. It is not recommended to pack males and females in the same shipping crate in case the divider is broken or becomes nonfunctional.
5. It is not recommended to pack males from different cages in the same shipping crate, especially breeder males, as they can injure each other severely if the divider is broken.
6. Mark shipping crate LIVE ANIMALS and THIS SIDE UP.
7. Rodents packed in shipping crates before transport must have all needed cage card information transferred to the shipping crate.
8. If the cage card is transferred to the shipping box, placement must be made to secure cage card by attaching it to exterior of crate with adhesive manifest envelope.

TRANSPORT OF RODENTS FOR ACUTE VS. CHRONIC STUDIES AND ADHERENCE TO BU QUARANTINE PROCEDURES

Above guidelines for transport between institutions apply to rodents for ONE-WAY TRANSPORT ONLY. Rodents coming to either BU Campus for chronic studies or to start a breeding colony must be transported by a commercial carrier and be received by BUASC staff for quarantine.

DISPOSAL OF DEAD ANIMALS

Dead rodents are deposited in the receiving institutions necropsy facilities or as directed by OEHS or IBC.

REFERENCES

1) The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA, P.L. 89-544, CFR 2.22 -2.80)
2) The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (ILAR, NCR, 2007)
3) Boston University IACUC Policy: Transportation of Animals (2008).
4) Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Policy: Transportation of Animals (2005).
5) NIH (ARAC) Guidelines for NIH Rodent Transportation (2007).
6) Boston University Research Occupational Health Program

BU IACUC Approved April 2009, Revised January 2014