The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech has been awarded full accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) following an extensive program evaluation and site visitation.

AAALAC accreditation is considered the international gold standard for certifying ethical and professional excellence in the use of laboratory animals in biomedical research and education, according to Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the veterinary college.

"Achieving this designation is a major step forward for our college," said Schurig. "It's an institutional 'stamp of quality' that says our programs comply with the highest standards of performance for animal care in biomedical research, and it should enhance our ability to procure more research contracts and grants in the future."

More than 770 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies, and other research institutions in 29 different countries have earned AAALAC accreditation.

Some of the institutions that have earned AAALAC accreditation include the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, The American Red Cross, and the National Institutes of Health.

Along with meeting all applicable local and national regulations regarding the use of animals in science, AAALAC accredited institutions must also demonstrate that they are achieving standards outlined in the National Research Council's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Developed in 1996, those standards exceed those that are required by law.

Earning AAALAC accreditation is a rigorous process that involves a detailed examination of an organization's institutional policies, procedures and performance regarding animal care and use in the areas of research, education, testing, and breeding. Teams of professionals evaluate a comprehensive written document and conduct a site visitation that analyzes institutional performance in animal husbandry, veterinary care, physical plant, and other areas.

In addition to certifying that an organization complies with the highest standards for animal research programs, AAALAC certification also promotes scientific validity and increased credibility with research, according to Schurig.

"This achievement is the result of a major process that has involved the efforts of professionals from many different offices around the college and the university," Schurig noted. "But I would especially like to recognize Dr. Jennie Hodgson, our associate dean for professional programs, for her overall leadership in the later stages of the program, and also the highly dedicated staff within the Teaching and Research Animal Care and Support Services."

Veterinarians and researchers who recognized the need to foster the highest standards of care for the use of laboratory animals in biomedical research founded AAALAC in 1965.

Scientific, educational, and professional organizations like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the American Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association and others help provide administrative direction and guidance for AAALAC International as members of their international Board of Trustees.