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The primary responsibility of an Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) is to ensure that all research and teaching using animals is conducted in compliance with the Australian Code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th Edition (2013) (the Code).

AECs apply a set of principles, outlined in the Code, that govern the ethical use of animals for scientific purposes. The role of the AEC is to make sure that the use of animals is justified, provides for the welfare of the animals and incorporates the principles of the 3Rs - replacement, reduction and refinement.

In South Australia, AECs are appointed by the Minister and consist of at least five people appointed to each of the following categories:

Category A: a person with qualifications in veterinary science and with experience relevant to the activities of the institution.

Category B: a suitably qualified person with substantial recent experience in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities.

Category C: a person with a demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals. This person is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution.

Category D: a person who is both independent of the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities.

Category E: a person responsible for the routine care of animals from within the institution.

Animal Ethics Committee information

You may need to apply to each of the following:

  • your organisation's AEC (for interstate or independent researchers this is the SA AEC nominated on the licence you are working under)
  • the AEC of each organisation collaborating on the project
  • the institutional AEC of any teacher supervising a research student
  • the AEC with responsibility for the animal holding facility.

Contact your relevant AEC for advice on the application process, including which AEC(s) to submit the application to.

Independent external reviews of Animal Ethics Committees

Each AEC is responsible for arranging an independent external review to assess their compliance with the code and relevant legislation. This review must be conducted, at a minimum, every four years. The requirements of the external review are laid out in section 6 of the Code.

As an overview, the independent external review includes:

  • The conduct of all people involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes
  • That the AEC has an adequate institutional program to ensure compliance with the code
  • That the AEC has the support and resource to carry out its operation in accordance with the code
  • That the AEC is operating effectively in line with the code
  • The monitoring and implementation of the governing strategies
  • The effective monitoring of the wellbeing of animals
  • The facilities used to house animals
  • If applicable, the previous independent external review report.

All of the above listed items will require the associated paperwork to demonstrate compliance. The paperwork required will include, but is not limited to:

  • AEC terms of reference
  • Applications for projects
  • Procedures, meeting minutes and reports
  • Approved standard operating procedures
  • Records of monitoring animal welfare

Additionally, the review panel may carry out further discussions with the chairperson and members of the AEC and scientific and animal care personnel.

A copy of the independent external review report should be provided to the Department for Environment and Water Chief Executive via the Animal Welfare Unit.

The External Review Report describes areas of compliance for the AEC as well as any corrective actions required, and if necessary, makes recommendations for short and long term improvements.