Find out more about the guidelines and provisions for using animals in research, as well as how to submit an application if your research involves animals.
Swinburne’s use of animals in teaching and research complies with the provisions of the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1986) and its associated Regulations 2019 as well as the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (2013), published by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
All projects involving the care and use of live animals or animal tissue must have the approval of the Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee (SAEC) prior to commencement. This includes:
- tissues for class experiments
- behavioural studies
- wildlife census data collection
- the use of fish
- animals or tissue obtained from third parties.
How to apply to use animals in your research
The Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee (SAEC) meets on a limited number of occasions each year so please contact the Research Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety Office as soon as possible when considering proposals for projects involving animals to find out the upcoming meeting schedule.
Before you apply, please determine which approach you should take:
- If the Chief Investigator is a Swinburne staff member and the work is to be carried out in Swinburne facilities or in the field then approval must be obtained from the Swinburne AEC (SAEC). Applications for approval must be lodged online via the Swinburne Ethics Review Management website.
- Or if the Chief Investigator is a Swinburne staff member but the work is to be performed at another institution with a separate Scientific Procedures Premises License then approval must be obtained from the Animal Ethics Committee named on the Scientific Procedures Premises License of that institution as well as submitted to the SAEC for endorsement. Please email the SAEC Executive Officer with a description of your role in the project and attach the approved application and the approval certificate.
To submit an online application:
- Go to the Swinburne Ethics Review Management website.
- Click ‘Log in’ in the top right-hand corner of the menu bar and enter your Swinburne email address and password.
- Select ‘Create project’ from the left-hand sidebar, add in the Project Title and select ‘Animal ethics application form’ from the drop-down menu, then click ‘Create’.
- Complete the application — you can invite your collaborators to review and work on the form too.
- Create and attach relevant additional documents as requested in the form.
- Obtain the sign-offs requested in the form.
- Submit the application form as soon as possible before the SAEC deadline (Note: Submitting your form ahead of the deadline will ensure that any queries are answered in time for the SAEC meeting).
- Respond to any queries posed by the ethics committee.
- Ethics approval will be granted once all outstanding queries are satisfied. You will receive formal notification of this approval.
Application review process
The primary responsibility of the SAEC is to ensure that all activities relating to the care and use of animals are conducted in compliance with the Code and that the use of animals is justified, provides due consideration for the welfare of the animals involved, and incorporates the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement (the three Rs).
All applications will be reviewed at quorate meetings of the SAEC, with at least one member from each of these categories present:
- Category A — veterinary surgeon with experience relevant to the activities of the institution or ability to acquire relevant knowledge.
- Category B — a suitably qualified person with substantial and recent experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes relevant to the institution and the business of the AEC.
- Category C — a person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not currently involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.
- Category D — a person not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, either in their employment or beyond their undergraduate education. Category D members must not fit the requirements of any other category.
The SAEC will respond with one of the following outcomes:
- approving the application without modification
- approving the application with conditions
- deferring the decision, subject to modification to the satisfaction of the committee
- not approving the application if they judge the potential effects on the wellbeing of the animals involved has not been justified by the potential benefits of the project.
Applicants will receive notice of SAEC decisions via email within five working days after a SAEC meeting. No project can commence before a formal SAEC approval letter has been obtained.
Modifications to an approved application
Any modification to an SAEC-approved project will only be granted if the amendment is minor and there is no significant change to the direction of the study. Such a modification may include a change in animal numbers, a minor change in procedures or techniques, an addition or removal of investigators, or an extension of the study duration.
The request to vary an approved animal ethics application can be made by the chief investigator and must include a cover letter describing the proposed changes and reasons why the modification is necessary.
How to submit a modification request:
- For projects approved from 2020 onwards, submit a modification request via ERM.
- For projects approved prior and during 2019, submit a modification request to the SAEC Executive Officer.
Are you involved in research that uses animals at another institution?
You must provide the SAEC Executive Officer with the following information via email and receive confirmation that the project is exempt from SAEC review and approval prior to commencing any research:
- details of your involvement in the project
- the application approved by the other institution’s Animal Ethics Committee
- the approval certificate or notification.
You will be informed if your involvement in this research is exempt from an SAEC review and then you may commence your involvement.
Swinburne adheres to the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Ed 2013), which includes the three Rs (animal replacement, reduction and technique refinement).
There are alternative methods that can be used to replace the use of live animals in either all or part of a project. Replacements may be relative — animals are still required to provide cells or tissue, but experiments are conducted in vitro. These methods are suited to studies at the tissue or cellular level and can be cost-effective and time-saving.
The Code requires that:
- studies are designed to be scientifically and statistically valid
- only the minimum number of animals required to reach the educational objective are used
- studies should not be repeated unless clear justification is provided that this is essential for the purpose or design of the project
- the principle of reduction should not be applied at the expense of greater suffering to individual animals
- the number of animals used must satisfy statistical requirements — if reducing the number of animals makes it impossible to reach a valid conclusion, it would be unethical to proceed with such an experiment.
Refinement is any decrease in the incidence or severity of 'inhumane' procedures applied to animals. There are two key issues:
- To assess the impact of any procedure or condition on the wellbeing of the animal
- Strategies to eliminate or minimise that impact.
Our animal holding facilities operate strictly within the terms of the Scientific Premises Procedures Licence issued by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. We don’t have the capacity to establish or maintain animal colonies and have limited overnight housing facilities on any campuses for laboratory animals such as rats, mice and guinea pigs.
Cane toads can be kept for a strictly limited amount of time, which is subject to the SAEC-approved Standard Operating Procedure Secure Keeping and Care of Cane Toads and the DEPI Pest Animal Permit (RE74). Copies of these can be obtained by emailing the SAEC Executive Officer.
An adverse event is any event that is not anticipated within an approved animal ethics project that impacts on the wellbeing of an animal or animals. This can be a single occurrence or a cumulative event that involves unexpected mortality, injury or illness. For example:
- an animal in a holding facility develops an unexpected illness or disease
- an animal in a laboratory develops unexpected adverse clinical signs to what was expected
- a trapped animal is injured or dies while being captured for fieldwork.
It is important to remember:
The immediate welfare of the animals is paramount — remove any obvious cause(s) or hazards as soon as possible.
The reporting of an adverse incident is mandatory and the SAEC Executive Officer must be informed as soon as possible. The Executive Officer will inform the SAEC.
There are two methods to reporting an adverse event:
- If your animal ethics application was lodged via ERM please log on to ERM, locate your animal ethics application, create the sub-form and submit. Details are in the Animal Ethics ERM guide.
- If your animal ethics application was approved prior to 2020 then you must submit an adverse event form via email making sure to include the type and number of animals affected, what was happening to the animals when it occurred, how the animals were affected and a time line of events.
Your report will be promptly reviewed by the SAEC and you will be advised by the SAEC Executive Officer as to how to proceed.
Section 4.12 [8th edition] of the Code states that where animals are used for teaching activities, students should be given the opportunity to discuss the ethical, social and scientific issues that are involved at a level appropriate to their learning ability and comprehension, and before the use of animals commences.
All teaching staff must comply with all relevant clauses of the Code and their AEC approved application at each stage of the project. Where students are involved in the use of animals as part of their professional training, curricula in the academic discipline should include material on such issues.
If a student has a conscientious objection to a particular form of animal use involved in teaching and learning they must contact the course coordinator to discuss. The Swinburne procedure for managing a conscientious objection to animal use can be downloaded.
The chief investigator of a project using animals is responsible for ensuring that each named personnel is adequately trained in the techniques to be used. Details of the training must be included in the ethics application for approval by the SAEC. If any further training is required, please contact the SAEC Executive Officer.
All researchers must maintain standard records of animal numbers, acquisition, transfer, use and destruction. Please see the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Ed, 2013) for more details.
Animal use for the calendar year must be reported each year of the project in the annual or final report. This information is used to comply with the requirements of the Swinburne Scientific Procedures Premises Licence (SPPL20301) as issued by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.
Animal Welfare Victoria conducts audits to ensure that the responsibilities outlined in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (the Act), the associated Regulations and two mandatory Codes of Practice — Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 2013 (the Australian Code) and Victorian code of practice for the housing and care of laboratory mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits (the Laboratory Animals Code) — are being met.
The legal obligations and responsibilities researchers and teachers are outlined in the Animal Code.
The Animal Welfare Victoria audit program enables an organisation to evaluate and improve to ensure it consistently meets its legal responsibilities. Benchmarking against current best practice is done through a rating system as part of each audit. Processes and people contributing to best practice within an institution are identified through the program.
As a result of the process, the audit should also enable the institution to further evaluate and modify processes to ensure it does or continues to meet its legal responsibilities. It should also allow an institution to identify processes and personnel contributing to best practice within the institution.
Swinburne guidelines and resources:
- Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee Terms of Reference [PDF 459KB]
- Animal Welfare Guidelines July 2020 [PDF 101KB]
- Applicant Guide to the Ethics Review Management System [PDF 1.77MB]
- Conscientious Objection to Animal Use Procedure form [PDF 58KB]
Documents for applications submitted pre-ERM:
Australian guidelines and resources:
- Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Edition, 2013)
- A Guide to the Care and Use of Australian Native Mammals in Research and Teaching (2014)
- Australian & New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART)
Victorian Government guidelines and resources:
Do you have a complaint?
For any complaints and grievances regarding the use of animals within Swinburne please email the SAEC Executive Officer with the following information:
- Time and date of incident
- Incident of concern
- Animal species involved
- Room number or location
- Chief Investigator of project
- SAEC approval number (if known)
- Reported by
- Reported to
Explore our other ethics and integrity topics
If you are unsure about any aspects of animal research or would like more information, please contact the Executive Officer of the Swinburne Animal Ethics Committee.