The operation of the Central Animal Facility (CAF), as well as the campus animal facilities of McMaster University and all satellite facilities operated by the CAF, support a corporate animal care and use policy of responsible use of animals in research and teaching. Animal research must be justified and approved in order to obtain knowledge essential to preventing and treating human and animal disease, minimizing any pain and suffering. Teaching for the purpose of scientific development and technical education is done in order to ensure competent animal use.
The animal facilities, under the auspices of McMaster University, are required to comply with all agencies overseeing and/or regulating the use of laboratory animals in Canada to ensure continuous operation and obtain funding for animal-based research to the University. This requires compliance with the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) who issue Good Animal Practice certification, and is funded by and acts on behalf of the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the National Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) to ensure public funds are issued only to academic institutions meeting acceptable standards of animal care. New CCAC guidelines are introduced on a regular basis and McMaster University must institute new or amended policies and procedures to adhere to these changing guidelines and regulations. Licensing is also required under the provincial Animals for Research Act administered by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and is dependent on acceptable levels of compliance with animal care standards. As well the federal Criminal Code has sections pertaining to humane treatment of animals. Also directly applicable are federal biosafety (Health Canada) and provincial work place safety guidelines and regulations (Occupational Health and Safety Act).
The animal care program at McMaster consists of seven facilities managed under the Central Animal Facility (CAF) staff and resources. The CAF runs on a >$5M budget and the CAF veterinary, administrative and technical staff provide management, animal care services and administrative support for all seven facilities. Included are the specialized areas of animal care such as the Level 3 biohazard unit, quarantine facilities and facilities using "clean room" technology. Collectively the seven animal facilities cover more than 75,000 square feet. These facilities house in excess of 30,000 animals in over 100 rooms in 7 buildings over 4 campuses. Each animal must be monitored at least daily (including weekends and statutory holidays) for health and welfare by qualified staff. All needs of the animals including husbandry, treatment and research protocol management involve varying degrees of intervention and levels of participation by the CAF staff in the projects. These are outlined below.
The CAF management staff (TMG) includes the Executive Director/University Veterinarian, Assistant Director, Clinical Veterinarian, Technical Manager, Administrative Manager and Veterinary Research Pathologist. The CAF technical staff includes Animal Health Technicians, Animal Care Technicians, Facility Technician and Attendants. An ensemble of part-time staff is also required to round-out weekends and holiday/absence coverage. The administrative staff consists of Administrative Receptionist(s), Accounting Assistant, Budget Analyst and Training and Compliance Co-ordinator.
The incumbent assists the CAF in ensuring that highly trained, competent technical and management staff are available seven days a week. The CAF technical staff provide animal technical services to the research community and as well provide and maintain a disease-free animal facility environment, all necessary monitoring of animal health and welfare, and ensure that anesthetic, surgical and other specialized equipment is functioning properly and being properly sterilized and available to provide for the health assessment and treatment of all animals housed in all the facilities. The TMG staff must ensure regulatory compliance for all facilities as well as provide supplies and guidance for facility design, research protocol development/management.
The incumbent must also oversee the health and welfare of all animals through an internally developed Quality Assurance and Health Monitoring Program utilizing the available veterinary and specially trained technical staff.
Most of the animals used in the various animal facilities are genetically engineered mice, many of which are immuno-suppressed and susceptible to infectious agents that are normally not regarded as pathogenic. These animals are kept in special, high technology environments and caging systems that are considered disease-free or ultraclean. This ultraclean status is very dependent upon the people who work in these areas following very carefully the special standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are in place.
The CAF operates an animal researcher training program with hundreds of annual registrants in one or more of the 25 different courses required under the CCAC core curriculum guideline. Everyone who wishes to interact in any way with research animals is required to attend at least some of these courses. These courses are developed, assessed, modified and taught by the appropriate CAF veterinary, technical, management and administrative staff to ensure that all animal researchers are educated and competent on the most up-to-date animal research techniques.
Due to the nature of the work performed in a biomedical research facility, it is necessary to develop, assess, modify and train CAF Staff on the scope of the Animal Research Ethics Board's (AREB) Crisis Management Program. All staff are required to participate in the program and communication and on-call devices are provided to TMG staff to assist in this endeavour.
All facilities are secured using state-of-the-art security systems to ensure the integrity of both the research and the health and safety of the animals and staff from the threats from animal activist groups. Every person accessing the animal facilities must be carefully screened for his/her sensitivity and suitability to work in this environment and must understand and adhere to the policies and procedures developed in the McMaster University AREB's Crisis Management Program. Access to the facility is granted only after training is successfully completed. All breaches are investigated and in cases of repeated violation, privileges can be removed. The CAF works closely with all protection services units including Campus Security, Hospital Security and local authorities.