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Animal Care Information

Policies and Operating Information

Assignment and Use of Animal Rooms

Animal housing space is assigned by the Director of the Laboratory Animal Care Unit (or designee) to faculty of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Animals are housed by species and health status to minimize infectious disease problems. Investigators are encouraged to notify LACU of anticipated needs as far in advance as possible.

Housing Animals in Laboratory Areas

Experimental animals must be housed in designated animal holding facilities and may not be kept outside these areas for more than 12 hours without written approval from LACU and the IACUC.

Keeping pets (e.g. dogs) in the animal facilities, or bring pets into an animal facility is strictly prohibited. Animals can harbor various diseases that can interfere with, and in many cases, invalidate data. Further, UTHSC must comply with numerous regulations affecting the use of animals in research.

Access to Animal Facilities

The Laboratory Animal Care Unit's policy regarding the admission to animal facilities exists to protect UTHSC employees, students, and the general public from unnecessary exposure to potential hazards, and to protect animals and research from interference from unauthorized personnel. Both faculty and staff are requested to assist in enforcing this policy and to report exceptions to the security staff at 448-4444. Unauthorized exceptions to this policy will be considered trespassing.

All entrances to UTHSC animal facilities and individual animal rooms are secured 24 hours a day. Access is granted to authorized personnel by means of an electronic card key (University ID) or proxy card. Card key authorization is obtained by contacting the LACU office who will, through UTHSC security, review and approve requests and provide key access. Card access is only provided after personnel have enrolled in the UTHSC Occupational Health and Safety Program, have been added to an approved IACUC protocol and have completed an animal facility orientation.

Animal Procurement

More detail information is available on the animal ordering page.

Import and Export of Animals

The shipment of animals is regulated by both state and federal laws, and University guidelines. No animals may be brought to or leave the LACU campus without the prior approval of the LACU Director and the IACUC.

For more information, please see the LACU policy and procedure for import and export.

Per Diem Charges for Animal Care

To recover a portion of the money spent on animal care, per diem rates for the various species are charged by the LACU. The per diem charge covers housing, daily care, health surveillance, and veterinary services for spontaneous illnesses. The charge does not cover veterinary, diagnostic laboratory, and pathology services for medical problems resulting from experimental procedures; special diets, or special husbandry requests. Those services are billable to the investigator. Per diem rates are established by the office of Business and Finance and reviewed annually.

Current Rate Schedule

Inventory sheets are maintained by the animal care staff on a daily basis. Per diem charges for animal care begin on the day the animal arrives and is housed in an animal room. Per diem rates on animals born in the animal facility usually begin on the day animals are weaned.

Movement of Animals

See Animal Transportation Procedure.

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Animal Husbandry


LACU is responsible for selecting appropriate cages for laboratory animals, to ensure that housing conforms to NIH Guide standards and Animal Welfare Act requirements while meeting research needs. Investigators who require special housing should contact LACU to discuss their needs. Exceptions to NIH Guide standards must be justified on the basis of experimental or species requirements and receive prior approval from LACU and IACUC. To reduce the risk of disease transmission in our rodent colonies, the LACU utilizes filter topped microisolator shoe box cages and individually ventilated cages. Individuals who are unfamiliar with the use of these cages should be properly trained. Researchers are encouraged to contact the LACU facility manager at 448-5656 for more information.

Environmental Factors

  1. Temperature: The NIH Guide has defined requirements for the proper maintenance of laboratory animals. Environmental factors such as temperature must be carefully monitored because they affect metabolism and behavior. LACU is responsible for maintaining and monitoring appropriate temperatures in LACU maintained animal facilities.
  2. Ventilation: Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in animal facilities require constant monitoring to assure proper ventilation and appropriate temperature levels. LACU personnel work with appropriate University maintenance staff to ensure that environmental control systems in animal facilities are functioning properly. Any departures from appropriate levels should be reported to LACU immediately at 448-5656. Facility problems encountered after working hours (7 am to 5 pm, M-F) should be reported to the on-call facility supervisor at 901-268-0190 or UTHSC security at 448-4444.
  3. Illumination: LACU is responsible for establishing and maintaining light cycles in animal housing areas. Regular diurnal light cycles are provided by time-controlled lighting systems in most facilities. Special research needs which require departures from normal light cycles can be arranged through consultation with LACU. The standard light cycle in animal housing areas is 6 am to 6 pm.


Standardized commercial diets are available for most laboratory species. LACU is responsible for providing appropriate diets and for ensuring that food is fresh and free from contaminants. For special research needs, certified diets that have been assayed for commonly encountered environmental contaminants may be necessary. LACU can assist with selection of specialized diets and provide information on their availability. Some animals are on automatic watering (dogs, rabbits, nonhuman primates, pigs, and some rodents). Many rodents in all animal facilities receive chlorine treated or autoclaved water to prevent bacterial growth in water bottles. If it is necessary to add any experimental substance (e.g. antibiotic, other drug treatment) to the drinking water of any animal as part of an experiment, the LACU must be notified in writing as to the type of substance, the onset of administration, and duration that the substance will be administered. The use of any substance must also be described in the protocol form and approved by the IACUC prior to the onset of the experimental study. For questions regarding water, contact the LACU Facility manager at 448-5656.


  • Cleanliness: The Animal Welfare Act and the NIH Guide have established schedules for frequency of cleaning animal rooms, and for cleaning and changing cages. Standard operating procedures pertaining to sanitation are followed by LACU animal care personnel to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Cage sanitation schedules can be altered to accommodate special research needs by arrangement with LACU.
  • Animal Carcass and Waste disposal: Refrigerators which are monitored by LACU personnel are maintained in all animal facilities for deposit of animal carcasses. Food, drugs, supplies, or materials other than animal carcasses or tissues must not be placed in these refrigerators.
  • Objects that are considered to be sharps (e.g., scalpels, blades, hypodermic needles with/without attached syringes, etc.) must be placed in rigid red/clear sharps containers for disposal.
  • Radioactive and/or biohazardous animal wastes and bedding must be disposed of according to procedures established by the campus safety officer. For information on the disposal of radioactive and/or hazardous chemicals, contact the Safety Affairs Office at 448-6114. For biological hazards, contact the biosafety officer at 448-2054.
  • Vermin control: The presence of pests in animal colonies can result in contamination of feed and bedding, and the introduction of disease. Pesticides are used in animal areas only when necessary, and then only after consultation with the investigator(s) whose animals will be exposed to them. An approved pesticide list is available for review. Contact the Facility manager at 448-5656.

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Animal Identification and Record Keeping Requirements

The Animal Welfare Act and the NIH Guide require appropriate identification of animals and maintenance of animal records. Accepted methods of animal identification include cage cards, collars and bands, ear notches and tags, implantable microchips, and tattoos.

Methods of Identification of each Species

All animals are identified with cage cards. Cage cards note the investigator, investigator's department, species, stock/strain, source, date of arrival, weight and/or age of animal on arrival, building where the animals were initially housed and the protocol number. It may also have special instructions regarding care of the animals. Cage card labels are generated by a computer. Rodents may be disbursed during experimentation to additional caging in which the cage computer cards reflect the entire group of animals. Cage cards for non-rodent species may be limited to investigator, species, source, animal identification, date of arrival and protocol number. In addition to cage cards, non-rodent species may have additional identification such as tags, collars or tattoos. Consult with a LACU veterinarian for more information regarding species identification particulars.

Use of Ether in Animal Facilities

The use of ether or similar explosive, flammable agents is prohibited in LACU facilities. Contact the veterinary staff at 448-5656 to discuss alternatives to the use of ether as an inhalation anesthetic.

Special Requests

Special husbandry requirements can be accommodated by completing the instruction section in animal order form when ordering animals. This section provides emergency notification information, special dietary requirements, instructions to personnel to make special observations, etc. Completed special alert requests are submitted to the facility/operations coordinator for processing and approval. Other special requests need to be submitted a minimum of 24 hours (Monday - Friday) prior to the beginning of the special request date. NPO request cards are used to fast animals.

Additional caging or cage component supplies (i.e., mouse cages for weaning) can be obtained by completing a LACU Resource Request Form. Supplies will be delivered to the desired location as specified on the completed request form. Cage requests need to be submitted a minimum of 2 business days prior to the desired cage delivery date.

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Any project/veterinary special needs or concerns should be directed to the respective veterinarian responsible for the Coleman/Wittenborg/TriMetis or CRB/TSRB vivariums. For the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory animal facility, please contact the Facility Manager, Jennifer Stabenow, for requests.

Jun 29, 2022