Boston University (BU) is committed to observing Federal policies and regulations and the Association of Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International standards for the humane care and use of animals. Regulations require that principal investigators consider alternatives to procedures involving animals that will avoid or minimize discomfort, pain, and distress. Furthermore, principal investigators are required to provide a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives. This policy describes how the search for alternatives achieves the goal of documenting the steps taken to minimize animal pain and distress without compromising research goals.  Adherence to this policy is mandatory unless a specific exception has been approved by the IACUCInstitutional Animal Care and Use Committee IACUC oversee....

Covered Parties

This policy is applicable to all persons responsible for conducting research, teaching, training, breeding, and related activities, hereinafter referred to collectively as “activities,” involving vertebrate animals conducted at or under the auspices of Boston University.

University Policy

A fundamental goal of the federal Animal Welfare Act and accompanying regulations is the minimization of animal pain and distress through the consideration of alternatives without compromising research goals using the 3 Rs. The 3 Rs include replacement with non-animal systems or less sentient animal species, reduction in the number of animals necessary to obtain scientifically valid data, or refinement of techniques used to decrease or eliminate pain.

Alternatives should be considered in the preparation and review of the animal use protocol.  A search for alternatives is required at the time a new protocol is submitted or at the three-year renewal for any protocol that has a Category D or E procedure, as well as for any amendment that adds a category D or E procedure to a currently approved protocol.

Regulations state that any proposed animal activity or significant changes to ongoing animal activity must meet the following requirements:

  • A rationale for using animals, the appropriateness of species, and justification of the number to be used
  • A description of procedures and methods that would assure discomfort and pain to the animals is minimal and inevitable
  • A description of all analgesics, anesthetics, and tranquilizers with dosage and locations of administration
  • An assurance that procedures and methods do not unnecessarily duplicate previous experiments
  • A written narrative description of methods and sources used to consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress

Database searches remain the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to each potentially painful and distressful procedure. The protocol submission system provides a specific section to detail this process.  When completing the narrative section for each potentially painful or distressful procedure, the principal investigator must include:

  • Name of the potentially painful or distressful procedure
  • Name(s) of databases searched
  • Date the searches were done
  • Period covered by the search
  • Key words or strategies used to conduct the search
  • If alternatives were identified, justification of why these methods are not used

If the procedure does not appear in the dropdown list or the search does not involve a painful procedure, details can be included in the View Procedure Search Details window in the IACUC software.  Include the name of the search in question 5 with the narrative and complete the other information listed above in the corresponding fields.

Responsible Parties

Principal investigators are responsible for: preparing and submitting applications; making modifications in applications in order secure IACUC approval; ensuring adherence to approved protocols; ensuring humane care and use of animals: ensuring that all personnel have completed required training; and reporting any unanticipated outcomes or adverse events to the IACUC.

The Animal Welfare Program and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee are responsible for overseeing implementation of and ensuring compliance with this policy.

Related Policies and References

For additional information on resources for alternatives in the care and use of animals, please visit the sites below:

  • The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) is an information service of the National Agricultural Library specifically established to provide information about alternatives. AWIC offers expertise in formulation of the search strategy and selection of keywords and databases, access to unique databases, on- and off-site training of institute personnel in conducting effective alternatives searches, and is able to perform no-cost or low-cost electronic database searches. AWIC can be contacted via email at awic@nal.usda.gov.
  • Altweb, a site devoted to replacement, reduction, and refinement alternatives for research and testing, is maintained by the John Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT).
  • The Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) is responsible for the administration and implementation of the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.


Effective Date: 01/03/2023
Next Review Date: 01/02/2026