The Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) has awarded Virginia Tech’s animal care and use program continued full accreditation after an onsite triennial visit.

“As one of the commonwealth’s leading research universities, we are honored with this distinction, which is directly related to sustained research excellence,” said Dan Sui, vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech. “We are privileged to work with animals where the values of professional and ethical conduct, research integrity, and achieving the highest animal welfare standards continue to guide and inform every aspect of our work.”

Led by Virginia Tech’s Associate Vice President for Research and Innovation David Schabdach, the Virginia Tech animal care and use program hosted members of the AAALAC’s accreditation team for a comprehensive assessment of animal research and teaching activities conducted under Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approved protocols.

“The success of this visit and our subsequent continued full accreditation would not have been possible without the ongoing efforts and thoughtful attention the Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students have given to promoting a culture of shared responsibility for excellence in animal care and use,” said Schabdach, also the university’s attending veterinarian. “I extend my sincerest appreciation to those in respective areas that made the site visit so successful.”

The AAALAC site visit team evaluated and assessed  Virginia Tech campuses in Blacksburg, Roanoke, and Leesburg that house the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Science, and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute animal care facilities as well as investigator-managed areas. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenging environment, the visit was conducted with adherence to state and university guidance with the use of remote meetings, a virtual tour of the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center, and in-person meetings and tours with implementation of physical distancing and face coverings.

AAALAC site visitors toured animal housing facilities managed by the Animal Resources and Care Division and the Teaching and Research Animal Care Support Services; visited research and teaching laboratories that conduct animal procedures; and reviewed a variety of institutional documents related to animal care and welfare, veterinary care, IACUC-approved protocols, guidance documents, personnel safety, and regulatory compliance. 

During the visit, site visitors met with numerous university employees, including animal care staff, veterinary personnel, research personnel, IACUC and Institutional Biosafety Committee members, and environmental health and safety personnel.

Schabdach said that the AAALAC International Council commended staff for the tremendous amount of commitment, knowledge, pride, and enthusiasm in providing and maintaining an excellent program of laboratory animal care and use that was demonstrated throughout the site visit in late-August.

In the accreditation notification letter, especially noteworthy details included the well-maintained and clean facilities; the excellent husbandry and veterinary medical care, evidenced in part by the appearance of healthy animals; the engagement and enthusiasm of the husbandry and veterinary medical staff during the site visit; the clear and comprehensive veterinary medical records; the collegiality between research staff and members of the animal care program; and the excellent rapport among the Animal Resources and Care Division and College of Veterinary Medicine personnel.

Virginia Tech has been AAALAC-accredited for the past consecutive 12 years through a voluntary, performance-based, peer-reviewed process. After an institution earns accreditation, it must be re-evaluated every three years in order to maintain its accredited status. Accreditation for Virginia Tech has historically been limited to areas of the program associated with animal based research and teaching activities conducted within the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, and the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia.  

In 2020, the accreditation was expanded to encompass the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the College of Science, and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. The university plans to expand the accreditation program campus wide with the addition of the agriculture and wildlife programs in the future.

According to its website, AAALAC International is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs.

More than 1,000 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies, and other research institutions in 49 countries have earned AAALAC accreditation, demonstrating their commitment to responsible animal care and use. The institutions volunteer to participate in AAALAC's program, in addition to complying with the local, state, and federal laws that regulate animal research.