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The IACUC is responsible for oversight of vertebrate animal activities supported by the PHS and those supported by NSF and VA in accord with PHS Policy. To conduct such activities in the field, the investigator must provide the IACUC with the following information:

  • where the activity will be conducted;
  • what procedures will be involved; 
  • a brief description of how those procedures are likely to affect the biology and ecology of the study animals by describing the relationship of that species to the habitat and to other species found in the study area (including the nature and duration of potential effects); and
  • assurance that permit requirements of pertinent local, state, national, and international wildlife regulations will be obtained before work begins.

If the IACUC determines that the proposed activity is likely to alter or influence the activity of the study animals or other species found in the study area, then protocol review and approval is required. However, if the IACUC determines that the proposed activity will not alter or influence the activity of the study animals, IACUC review and approval is not needed.

Investigators are encouraged to consult relevant professional societies, available guidelines, wildlife biologists, and veterinarians, as applicable, in the design of the field studies (Guide page 32, Appendix A). Studies with the potential to impact the health or safety of personnel (Guide page 18) or the animal’s environment may need IACUC oversight, even if described as purely observational or behavioral. When capture, handling, confinement, transportation, anesthesia, euthanasia, or invasive procedures are involved, the IACUC must ensure that proposed studies are in accord with the Guide (page 32). A study on free-living wild USDA-covered species that involves invasive procedures, harms or materially alters the behavior of an animal under study is covered by USDA animal welfare regulations and requires IACUC review and approval.

To learn more, see the OLAW Online Seminars on Wildlife Research Permits and Oversight of Research Involving Wildlife.

See also FAQ E4: Is the IACUC required to inspect field study sites?

The following resources are available to assist PHS awardee institutions with animal care and use programs in planning and responding to natural and other disasters.

Disaster Planning

  • Adverse Events at Research Facilities (PDF), Lab Animal 2017; 46(6):244-249: Describes types of adverse events for facilities to consider when assessing risk and developing a disaster plan.
  • Disaster Planning (PDF), Animal Lab News 2007; 6(3):21-24: Points to consider when developing a disaster plan for your animal facility.
  • Disaster Planning, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Provides animal emergency and disaster planning information.
  • NIH-OACU: Disaster Response, NIH Office of Animal Care and Use (OACU) animal program disaster response resources. Although specific to NIH facilities, these resources provide multiple references and templates that may be useful to other research animal facilities when developing contingency plans for natural and other disasters.
  • OLAW Webinar: Disaster Planning, March 7, 2013: Stephen Durkee provides best practice insights into developing a disaster plan compliant with the Guide.


  • Animals in Disasters, from the National Library of Medicine, NIH, provides links about handling and sheltering animals in disasters.
  • Emergency Preparedness and Response, is CDC's (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) primary source of information and resources for preparing for and responding to public health emergencies.
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. Often FEMA works in partnership with other organizations that are part of the nation's emergency management system. These partners include community emergency response teams, other federal agencies, and the American Red Cross.
  • Guidance on Prompt Reporting to OLAW, NOT-OD-05-034, 2005: Guidance to PHS awardee institutions on the prompt reporting requirements of the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (section IV.F.3.) to assist in determining what, when, and how situations should be reported, and to promote greater uniformity in reporting. Harm or death to animals as a result of a natural disaster is a reportable situation.
  • NIH Response to Natural Disasters and Other Emergencies, provides resources for the biomedical research community.
  • Public Health Emergency, is the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response that leads the country in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the adverse health effects of emergencies and disasters.
  • USDA-APHIS: Animal Health
  • USDA-APHIS: Emergency Response


  • Disaster Preparedness for Veterinarians, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): AVMA disaster preparedness program assists veterinarians, animal owners, and others interested in the well-being of animals to prepare for animal safety in the event of a disaster.

Publications and Reports

  • ARENA/OLAW Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Guidebook, 2002 (Excerpt - Word): Section B.6. Emergency Preparedness: B.6.a) Security and Crisis Management - developing a crisis management team, conducting a risk assessment, and establishing a communication network; and B.6.b) Disaster Planning - developing an emergency management program and implementing a disaster plan.
  • Focus on Disaster Preparedness, Lab Animal 2013; 42(10): This issue helps to address the challenges of disaster preparedness for animal facilities.
  • Disaster Planning and Management, ILAR Journal 2010; 51(2): This issue presents lessons learned by colleagues who experienced different types of disasters, both natural and deliberate, in varying animal-related settings.
  • Disaster Recovery, Lab Animal 2002; 31(8):27-30: When dealing with recovery from a disaster, PHS- funded animal research institutions have certain responsibilities to the NIH. The authors of this article outline these responsibilities and identify areas in which federal offices can aid the affected institution in the recovery effort.
  • Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 2011: Sections on Disaster Planning and Emergency Preparedness (Guide, p 35) and Emergency, Weekend, and Holiday Care (Guide, pp 74-75.
  • Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching, 2010Sections on Emergency, Weekend, and Holiday Care and Emergency Plans (Ag Guide   - PDF; see pp 22-23).
  • Strengthening the Disaster Resilience of the Academic Biomedical Research Community , 2017: Report from the National Academies is available from the National Academies Press and the NIH National Academies Collection.
  • The Threat of Extremism to Medical Research , 2014 (PDF): Report from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) on best practices to mitigate risk through preparation and communication.


  • Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) Guide to Disaster Preparedness  (PDF), University of California at Davis: Useful information about developing a disaster response plan, disaster preparedness training, and resource availability. DANR offers information, animal care procedures and emergency-related forms that show many types of disaster preparedness activities in which promote community involvement. Check references listed in this guide for more detailed information on disaster preparedness and emergency response.
  • Lessons Learned (Word): Compilation of U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps Veterinarians' findings/recommendations as a result of efforts to rescue laboratory animals following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September 2005. Lessons Learned describes considerations for disaster planning, immediate response, and recovery efforts.
  • Lessons Learned from Katrina, Rita, and Their "Sisters:" Evacuating, Euthanizing, Rescuing, and Rebuilding - PRIM&R/ARENA 2006 Annual IACUC Conference (Workshop Handout - PDF). Moderator: Axel Wolff. Panelists: Laura Levy, Lessons Learned From Katrina (PDF). William Stokes, Disaster Planning for Laboratory Animal Facilities (PDF).

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