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Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes submission

ID: 
75
Personal Details
First Name: 
Marco
Last Name: 
Festa-Bianchet
E. Submission
Types: 
Online Written Submission
Written Submission: 
Specific issues requiring particular consideration
After consultation with stakeholders during the initial phases of this review, specific issues have been identified as requiring particular consideration. Your comment is invited on these issues.
Specific issues requiring particular consideration
5. Should the document include specific guidance regarding the responsibilities of Veterinarians and Animal Welfare Officers?: 

I am a professor at the [third party information removed], and a Principal Fellow with the title of Associate Professor at the [third party information removed]

If adopted, the proposal to require direct involvement of a veterinarian in any procedure involving anesthesia or minor surgery of a wildlife species would ground most research on the ecology and conservation of wild Australian mammals to a halt.

My research on the ecology and conservation of ungulates has involved the capture with chemical immobilization of over 1000 ungulates (bighorn sheep, mountain goats, Alpine ibex, chamois).  I am involved in a study of eastern grey kangaroos in Victoria, that requires the capture and marking of individuals.  I have published refereed papers on chemical immobilization of bighorn sheep, mountain goats and kangaroos.  I also participated in a Subcommittee of the Canadian Council on Animal Care, that developed guidelines for the use of wildlife in research, available at http://www.ccac.ca/en_/standards/guidelines

A major conclusion of that subcommittee, reflected on the CCAC’s guidelines, was that biologists that have spent many years working with particular wildlife species are often better placed than veterinarians in establishing proper care techniques.  For wildlife capture using chemical immobilization, there is simply no need for direct veterinary supervision.  In my research on kangaroos, I have participated in over 700 captures – in not one of these did I face a situation where presence of a skilled veterinarian would have been of assistance.   Inexperienced researchers that wish to use chemical immobilization to capture wildlife, or perform minor surgery, should be required to consult people who have used these techniques, and to seek advice from a wildlife veterinarian.  I stress the words “wildlife veterinarian”, as the standard training on domestic animals received by most veterinarians does not easily translate into the skills required to deal professionally with wildlife species.

If anesthesia of wildlife required the presence of a veterinarian, most research on Australian wildlife that relies on either marking or radio-tagging individuals, or collecting tissue samples and other biological information from known individuals, would stop.  There is simply no way that the costs of professional fees, transport and lodging of a veterinarian could be absorbed by research grants, particularly for research in remote locations.  In addition, finding veterinarians willing to camp for days in primitive conditions, as is required by many wildlife research programs, would be a challenge.

This requirement would substantially impair our ability to better understand the ecology, evolution and conservation of Australian wildlife, including much research that has a direct bearing on the conservation of Australian biodiversity, the protection of endangered species, and sustainable use of wildlife.

I strongly urge you to not require direct veterinary supervision of all anesthesia or minor surgery, and ask instead that veterinarians and other appropriate experts be consulted.

11. Should the document include a guide regarding the longest duration of approval granted by an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) for a project before submission of a new application is required? : 

No - if there are no changes in the practice, why limit the duration of the approval?  It only generates additional paperwork.  Researchers should only be asked to resubmit an application if any practices involving animals change.

Page reviewed: 1 March, 2013