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College History

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Fifty Years Summary


The genesis of organized laboratory animal medicine resulted from the marked increase in biomedical research following World War II.  Prior to this time the scope of research did not require significant institutional involvement in the care of animals.  Most often, research projects were autonomous and controlled by the investigator receiving the funding.  Animal rooms were scattered through various divisions and departments.  Most of these rooms were primitive by today’s standards.  Graduate students or research technicians were assigned to care for animals secondary to their principal duties.  With the increase in research this pattern gradually began to change.  Institutions recognized their responsibility to provide for adequate laboratory animal care.  Animal care and use programs were centralized and institutions made professional appointments to cope with this responsibility.  Veterinarians became involved in overseeing these programs because of their knowledge of husbandry and disease of animals and interest in their well-being.

In 1946 Dr. Nathan R. Brewer of the University of Chicago and Dr. Arthur Rosenberg of Northwestern University presented an exhibit at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) meeting in Boston featuring problems related to the pre- and post-operative care of dogs used in experimental gastrointestinal surgery.  This stimulated interest of several other veterinarians becoming involved in laboratory animal medicine.  By 1949 five Chicago area institutions had veterinarians responsible for laboratory animal medicine in their institutions.  They were Drs. N.R. Brewer, University of Chicago; Elihu Bond, University of Illinois; Bennett Cohen, Northwestern University; Robert Flynn, Argonne National Laboratory; and Robert Schroeder, Hektoin Institute.  These men began meeting once a month to discuss animal care problems.  There was recognition for the need of more information about their work.  For this reason they believed that other institutions and individuals around the country would be interested in meeting to exchange information pertaining to the care of laboratory animals.  A forum or panel was planned and invitations signed by the five Chicago veterinarians were sent.  On November 28, 1950 a group of 75 workers interested in the care and management of laboratory animals met at the University of Chicago.  A business meeting was held after the program and the Animal Care Panel (ACP) was organized.  The ACP grew and in 1967 the name was changed to the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. 

Although veterinarians were prominent in the genesis of the ACP the decision was made that the organization should include technicians and scientists from other disciplines.  There was still a desire for an organization limited to veterinarians specialized in laboratory animal medicine.  It took several years for such an organization to come to fruition.  However, under Dr. Brewer’s leadership the American Board of Laboratory Animal Medicine was incorporated in Illinois on February 18, 1957. The incorporating members were---Nathan R. Brewer, Benjamin D. Fremming, Robert J. Flynn, Melvin M. Rabstein, Jules S. Cass, Robert D. Henthorne, Bennett J. Cohen, Robert J. Veenstra and Robert J. Young. Following incorporation, approval was sought and obtained from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) for a new specialty board.  The goals of the organization, now named the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM), remain the same today as first stated in 1958: To encourage education, training and research in laboratory animal medicine; to establish standards of training and experience for qualification of specialists in laboratory animal medicine; and to further the recognition of such qualified specialists by suitable certification and other means. 

The first members were Charter Fellows (grandfathers) who met at the organizational meeting in 1958.  These Charter Fellows were veterinarians of established reputations who were engaged in laboratory animal medicine.  Several additional Fellows of comparable training and experience were elected to the Board.  Criteria of at least an M.S. degree, 5 years experience in laboratory animal medicine, and a distinct contribution to laboratory animal medicine were established to be eligible to take the certifying examination to become Fellows.  In addition to the Fellowship category of membership Associate Membership was open to veterinarians who had at least 3 years experience in laboratory animal medicine. 

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In 1961 the name of the Board was changed to the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) and the title of those qualifying for full membership was changed from “Fellow” to “Diplomate”.  The number of Diplomates was small and did not reach 50 until 1966.  A category of Honorary Diplomate was established and Dr. Leo Bustad was the first accorded this honor. The category of Associate Membership was confusing and the 1960’s saw its elimination.  After 1966 no further Associate applications were processed.  However, there was still a need for a professional organization open to all veterinarians in laboratory animal medicine.  The American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners (ASLAP) was organized at this time to fill the need.  ACLAM’s commitment to continuing education resulted in a combined effort with the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (ILAR) of the National Research Council in four symposia on “Animal Models for Biomedical Research”.  All four were published by the National Academy of Science. 

The criteria to be eligible to take the certifying examination continued to be a combination of training and experience and a scholarly contribution to the understanding of laboratory animal medicine.  These criteria were refined and defined in more detail.    The 1960’s saw the advent of academic training programs in laboratory animal medicine.  The first was directed by Dr. Thomas Clarkson at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1960 and this was followed by a program directed by Dr. Bennett Cohen at UCLA Medical School.  By 1965 there were nine such programs.  In 1964 ILAR sponsored a workshop on guidelines to be used by all training programs.  The guidelines were published and subsequently adopted by ACLAM. 

The first written exam was formulated by Dr. William Dolowy in 1962.  There were 6 applicants and 2 passed.  The exam was revised in 1965 under the guidance of an Examination Committee.  The written exam would consist of true/false, fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions.  An oral examination was required.  A practical exam was offered for the first time.  It consisted of slides of lesions of laboratory animal diseases and demonstration of examination techniques in laboratory animal medicine.  Because of existing By-Laws the practical exam was not required for certification until 1966. In the early 60’s a Diplomate took the written exam at the same time as candidates.  A passing score was set at 70% of the Diplomate’s score.  Later in the decade passing scores were determined at what was termed a “natural break point”.  Passing grades ranged from 57% to 70%.

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The decade of the 70’s marked a period of growth and maturation for ACLAM.  Membership numbers were increasing and more and more committees were being appointed.  Income was increasing and the duties of the Secretary-Treasurer were becoming more time consuming.  Many of the programs and activities which continued well into the 2000’s were initiated in the 1970’s

There was much attention to the credentials for a candidate to be eligible to take the certifying exam.  In 1973 a Credentials Committee was appointed.  The Committee expressed that there was a lack of uniform criteria to evaluate programs adequate to meet the College’s requirements. They urged more specific guidelines for training, experience, publication and possible formal accreditation of training programs.  Much discussion centered on what constituted qualified authorship.  It was recommended and approved that the candidate have major input to an article on some phase of laboratory animal medicine and that it be accepted for publication in a referred journal.  Training and experience requirements were defined as formal training of 2 or 3 years plus one or two years experience respectively, or a  PhD or MS plus 4 or 5 years experience respectively, or six years of relevant experience.

At the start of the 1970’s the examination consisted of three parts; written, practical and oral.  There was concern about the oral examination.  It was a way to involve more Diplomates in the certification process.  It could eliminate unsuitable candidates.  On the other hand it was difficult to administer logistically and there was concern it might be viewed as subjective.  A decision was make to eliminate the oral exam.  The written and practical were deemed adequate to judge competence and the inclusion of references as part of the credentialing process addressed other concerns.   The exam was enhanced by the submission of questions and slides by Diplomates.

The examination was evaluated through several means.  An exam analysis by a professional group was done for a number of years.  An exam review open to all Diplomates was initiated.  This served as a continuing education experience for those sitting in on the review and provided feedback to the Examination Committee on the quality and relevance of questions used. 

The ACLAM textbook endeavor started in the 1970’s.  The first textbook was The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit. As was the case with a number of the early texts it was based on a symposium on this topic presented at a meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The second text was The Biology of the Guinea Pig. Other texts published in the 70’s were Spontaneous Animal Models of Human Disease, Volumes I and II, The Laboratory Rat, Volume I: Biology and Diseases. Work progressed on The Laboratory Rat, Volume II: Research Applications and a four volume series on the mouse.  Royalties from the sales of texts provided significant income for the College to use in program service activities. 

In cooperation with Washington State University and later the University of Washington the College co-sponsored the development of a series of audio-tutorial programs.  The initial format was slide-audiotape-text with other formats subsequently adopted.  These programs were designed to instruct veterinary and other biomedical scientists on topics of laboratory animal science and medicine.  In 1976 two of the top three awards of the Student AVMA Audio-tutorial Excellence Program went to ACLAM.  By the end of the decade gross sales of audio-tutorial materials totaled about $50,000. 

The first ACLAM Forum was held in 1975.  It was on the topic of continuing education and raised the issue of recertification of Diplomates.  Forums were to provide continuing education and opportunity for discussion among members.  Through 2007 twenty-six Forums have been held.  First Forums were limited to ACLAM Diplomates, but later became open to all interested in the topic.  Through 1980 Forums were held in conjunction with AALAS annual meetings, but since they have been free standing meetings. 

The College remained active in presenting scientific programs at meetings of the AALAS, the   AVMA and other organizations.  One such program was on Environmental Factors Influencing Biomedical Research presented to the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in 1975.

In 1976 a joint liaison committee with ASLAP was appointed with the charge of seeking cooperation between the organizations.  Membership in both organizations totaled nearly 500 individuals, all veterinarians associated in some way with laboratory animal medicine.  Duplicate membership was held by 112 veterinarians.  Objectives of both organizations include promotion and dissemination of information on educational and research programs in laboratory animal or comparative medicine.  The principle difference between the two organizations is that ACLAM has the responsibility for examination and certification of qualified individuals in the specialty of laboratory animal medicine whereas ASLAP is open to all interested veterinarians and represents the field in the AVMA House of Delegates.  The conclusion was that the organizations should remain separate, but continue to cooperate on mutual goals such as joint sponsorship of educational programs at AVMA and AALAS meetings.  ACLAM and ASLAP also cooperated in conducting periodic salary/economic surveys of laboratory animal veterinarians.

The ACLAM Board considered a number of important matters in the 1970’s including managing ACLAM finances, deciding to publish a pictorial directory, adopting a logo designed by Dr. Henry Foster’s staff at Charles River Laboratories, and approval of Bert Hill as the first non-veterinary Honorary Diplomate.  Mr. Hill was the Executive Secretary of ILAR of the National Research Council. 

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During the 1980’s ACLAM’s issues reflected the increasing maturity of the organization.  Major issues facing the credentialing process were the publication requirement and experience of candidates.  Publication requirement issues were not completely resolved and involved whether or not the publication had to be original research or if review articles or case reports could be accepted.   Also a matter of controversy was whether the applicant had to be first author or if second or later authorship was acceptable.  In 1989 PhD or MS degrees with experience as an option for qualifying for the certification exam was deleted.  This was in keeping with the Advisory Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS) of the AVMA that there be one preferred and one alternate route to certification, i.e. training and experience or experience alone.

The certifying exam continued to consist of a written exam given in the morning and a practical exam given in the afternoon of the Sunday preceding the AVMA annual meeting.  Concern was expressed about the length of the exam and the number of questions on the written was reduced from 650 to 500.  The Board of Directors and Examination Committee continued to take steps to assure security and fairness of the exam.  In 1988 a Task Force was appointed to determine what defined a Diplomate, to profile the professional activities of Diplomates, and to define the degree and scope of their involvement.  The findings were to be used in exam development. 

Examination review by Diplomates continued in the 1980’s.  Starting in 1983 full review of the current exam was held at the AVMA meetings and a review of 10% of the questions at the AALAS meeting.  By 1988 a full exam review was again held at both the AVMA and AALAS meetings.

ACLAM continued to produce textbooks and audio-tutorial programs.  By 1983 all four volumes of the Mouse in Biomedical Research had been published.  Laboratory Animal Medicine, a general text on the field was published in 1987 and Laboratory Hamsters in 1987.  In 1988 a Task Force on updating the audio-tutorial materials was appointed.  In 1989 a grant was obtained from the National Agriculture Library to help defray the expenses involved in updating programs relating to species covered by the Animal Welfare Act.

Seven ACLAM Forums were held in the 1980’s.  The first, in 1980, on Animal Production was held immediately preceding the AALAS annual meeting.  The other Forms on Immunology, Biomedical Research, Emerging Technology in Laboratory Animal Medicine, Genetics, Animal Welfare, and Current Concepts in Laboratory Animal Medicine were free standing meetings.  The Current Concepts Forum in 1988 was the first that was open to non-Diplomates. 

In 1980 there was discussion of publishing an ACLAM sponsored Journal.  There were differing opinions about the desirability of such an undertaking and concerns about the financial feasibility.  In 1989 the Journal Planning Committee recommended a conjoint effort with AALAS to develop a first class journal be pursued.  Subsequently AALAS started publishing a journal on Comparative Medicine.

In 1980 and 1985 ACLAM submitted required five year reports to the AVMA’s Advisory Board on Veterinary Specialties (ABVS).  ACLAM continued to receive full recognition with some accolades.  The ABVS recommended that specialty boards have an appeal procedure and liability insurance.  ACLAM recommended Diplomates for appointment to AVMA’s Animal Welfare Advisory Panel and a planned panel on research animal surgery.

In 1981 there were several committees dealing with animal care issues.  One was the Adequate Veterinary Care Committee which was to define adequate veterinary care, define the role of the attending veterinarian in the animal care facility, and explore channels for communication with investigators. They considered ACLAM’s position on commonly used experimental procedures, reviewed administrative procedures for identifying veterinary care problems in animal facilities, and acted as a liaison with other groups concerned with animal welfare. In 1986 a final position paper: Report of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine on Adequate Veterinary Care was approved.  It was distributed to the membership, corresponding societies, Office for Protection from Research Risks/ National Institutes of Health (OPRR/NIH), American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and others requesting it.

The finances of the College were given more structure in the 1980’s. The general operating budget had suffered from deficit spending and policies were put into place to control spending.  Text royalty income was good, but these were restricted funds which according to IRS requirements for non-profit organizations could only be used for program service activities such as continuing education.  An endowment fund was established from royalty income, donations, interest and funds not required for general operating.  Expenditures from the fund would be used to subsidize certifying exam preparation, text preparation, the Newsletter, continuing education and educational speakers.

In 1984 the College initiated development of a Policy and Procedure Manual.  The Manual set forth various policies and guidelines of the College including guidelines for Committees.  The Manual was to be kept up-to-date.   

In 1989 Dr. Henry and Lois Foster established an endowed award (Foster Award) to recognize excellence in laboratory animal medicine. It was decided to give the award to the individual(s) receiving the highest grade on the written and practical exams.  The endowment would provide $1,000 per year. 

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The decade of the 1990’s saw the development and implementation of ACLAM’s first Strategic Plan.  Although described near the end of this section, it permeated almost every phase of ACLAM activities, from the certifying examination to the establishment of the Executive Director position. During this period, recertification became a reality, and the ACLAM Foundation was created to fund research specifically in the area of laboratory animal medicine.  ACLAM widened its influence with legislative bodies and the international community, extended its outreach to veterinary students and practitioners, and created a website.    

Early in the decade the Credentials Committee grappled with what constituted an acceptable publication.  Guidelines were somewhat subjective and in a state of flux. In 1999 the membership approved a By-Law change which stated “The candidate must have been the first author of an original article which demonstrates application of scientific method in the biological sciences (or in the physical or other scientific area, if relevant to laboratory animal medicine).  The article must have been published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”

The College moved to recognize training programs qualified to train individuals to sit for the certifying exam by the training program route.  In 1993 minimum standards for training programs were established.  Training program directors submitted voluntary self-assessments.  The Training Program Recognition Committee reviewed the assessments and make suggestions for improvements. Of 38 programs submitting assessments 34 met minimum standards. 

A Certification Process Task Force was appointed to review the entire certification process.  Among their recommendations was that the College determine the knowledge and skills, ranked by species and emphasis that the average Diplomate required.  This recommendation resulted in hiring a professional examination consultant to work with a focus group of about 25 Diplomates to develop a Role Delineation Document (RDD).  This document delineates the essential roles of laboratory animal veterinarians and describes the knowledge and skills required to carry them out.  It is being used as a basis to modify the credentials process and examination to assure their relevancy.

The number of candidates sitting for the examination continued to grow.  In the 1990’s typically there were 60-70 candidates each year.  It was ACLAM policy that a passing score of 66% correct was required.  In many years the Board of Directors lowered this percentage a point or two to the benefit of the candidates.  The exam committee worked hard to assure fair and unambiguous questions.  They determined that short answer questions were most likely to result in ambiguous answers and were difficult to grade.  As result the decision was made to move to an all multiple choice format for the written exam.

Prior to 1997 the exam had been held on the Sunday preceding and at the site of the AVMA annual meeting.  Sometimes the facilities and logistics were not conducive to the best exam environment.  Starting in 1997 the exam was held Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.  The ability to grade multiple choice questions on site was valuable and the statistics generated were helpful in establishing question quality.  The exam committee was pleased with this site.

ACLAM developed a recertification program which was implemented in 1996.  Recertification had been discussed for some years and was advocated by the ABVS/AVMA.  The ACLAM program is based on the accrual of points during an 8 year period. Points were awarded for scholarly activities such as publication, presentations, and teaching; professional development such as attendance at meetings, ACLAM Forums, and continuing education sessions; and service activities such as submission of exam questions, service on ACLAM committees and as elected officers, holding office in other laboratory animal medicine and science organizations and membership on national and international committees.  Diplomates submit recertification points on an annual basis and a computerized database assures uniform tracking.  The ACLAM Directory notes those members whose certification is current.

ACLAM continued to be an active producer of educational materials and programs in the 1990’s.  A position of Publications Chairman was established to enhance publication activities.  The Chair receives a stipend.  Textbooks The Drug Formulary for Laboratory Animals; Anesthesia and Analgesia in Laboratory Animals; The Biology of the Laboratory Rabbit, second edition; Non-human Primates in Biomedical Research:Biology and Management; and Non-human Primates in Biomedical Research:Diseases were published.    The audio-tutorial programs continued to be updated.  Twenty-seven of the programs were converted to a CD-ROM format.  A total of seven ACLAM Forums were held.  Starting in 1996 Forums were held every year instead of every other year. There were ACLAM sponsored educational sessions at meetings of other scientific organizations.

Long range planning came to the fore in the 1990’s.  A consultant was engaged and working with a Committee a Strategic Plan was formulated.  Some of the aforementioned activities; the recertification program, the use of role delineation in exam development, training program recognition, enhancing continuing education and publications were given impetus by the Strategic Plan.  

To help with implementation of the Strategic Plan a part time paid position of Executive Director was established.  In addition to strategic plan initiatives the position included many of the former fiscal and record keeping duties of the Secretary-Treasurer.  Dr. Charles McPherson was appointed to this position in 1994.  He was succeeded by Dr. Melvin Balk in 1998.

Another initiative of the Strategic Plan was establishment of a Foundation to “increase the body of knowledge by identifying and supporting research in laboratory animal science and medicine.”  The Foundation Chair was to receive a stipend and Dr. Martin Morin was the first person appointed to this position.  The Foundation developed an active program of fund raising from Diplomates and organizations in the field.  Research proposals were solicited.  Each year starting in 1997 20 to 30 proposals were received and three to five were funded in amounts totaling about $45,000 to $100,000 each year.

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From 2000-2007 there was an emphasis on recruitment and training.  There were too few veterinarians for the number of open positions.  One of the most active committees was the Career Pathways Committee, which visited veterinary schools, attended meetings of the Student Chapter of the AVMA, and awarded externships in laboratory animal medicine.  A mentoring system was developed to assist veterinarians who wished to become certified through the experience route.  Standards for training programs were updated and several additional training programs received recognition. 

The certifying examination continued to be a primary focus of ACLAM.  An examination consultant was hired to take a one-time look at all aspects of the ACLAM examination and its processes.  Among the consultant’s recommendations was that the exam be closely aligned with the Role Delineation Document.  This became a continuing objective of the Examination Committee.  Another recommendation was that there be a Standard Setting Study to set the passing score for the exam.  The Study would use 10 to 14 Diplomates to set the passing score by reviewing the exam and deciding what percentage of minimum competency was needed for a laboratory animal veterinarian to pass the exam. After the required statistical analysis a report was submitted to the Board of Directors.  Use of the Standard Setting Study resulted in a low percentage of candidates passing the written exam.  There was concern about this low pass rate.  It seemed that those taking the exam might not realize that the questions were closely aligned with the RDD.  Therefore the emphasis on, and importance of, the RDD was to be stressed to Training Program directors and those candidates entering by the experience route.  Although the pass rate on a single exam might be low, candidates were allowed to take the exam three times with a single application.  The three year pass rate was much higher being around 75%.  Starting in 2007 changes were made in the exam: the practical slides which previously had been projected were printed in color in the exam booklet and the practical and written were combined for comparison to the RDD.  There were 375 questions on the combined exam.  Starting in 2010 the written and practical were completely combined and there would be one pass score to become a Diplomate.  After 2006 the traditional examination review where Diplomates sat through a session of examination questions with an opportunity to comment on them was no longer conducted.  This was due to the new Standard Setting Study and concern that questions could be leaked.  The Examination Review Committee still reviewed the exam prior to administration. 

ACLAM continued its textbook publishing program.  Titles were: Bioethics and the Use of Laboratory Animals: Ethics in Theory and Practice; Laboratory Animal Medicine, 2nd edition;The Laboratory Rat, 2nd edition;The Mouse in Biomedical Research, 2nd edition, 4 volumes;  Flynn’s Parasites of Laboratory Animals, 2nd edition.

“Camp ACLAM” was a new educational program.  The first “Camp” was held in conjunction with the AVMA meeting, but in 2005 and thereafter it was held with the Charles River Short Course.  The program was to be a continuing education experience and a training experience for those preparing for the certifying exam.  The program consisted of 16 courses which were closely aligned with the RDD. 

ACLAM continued to cooperate with ASLAP on matters of mutual concern such as the Economic (Salary) Surveys, sharing booth space at the AVMA meeting, international relations, and liaison to students at veterinary schools.

The ABVS/AVMA questioned the waiting period required for candidates who completed 2 or 3 year training programs.  Therefore effective in 2003 candidates who had completed a training program would not be required to have up to 2 years post-training experience.  The ABVS was also concerned that there be an appeals process for both credentialing and examination of candidates.  ACLAM decided to use the Certification Oversight Committee to review appeals.  In 2005 ACLAM was notified it received continued recognition as a specialty Board of the AVMA for the next 5 years.

Public relations, government and regulatory affairs received increased attention in the 2000’s.  ACLAM authored a number of position papers on the care and use of animals in research.  These position statements were placed on the ACLAM website and sent for information to such groups as FASEB, AALAS, AVMA, ILAR, USDA, NIH, AAALAC and others.  There was concern that the quality of animal care could suffer because of a shortage of veterinarians entering the field of laboratory animal medicine.  In response ACLAM began funding summer externships for veterinary students as an introduction to laboratory animal medicine.

The Strategic Plan was revised in 2000 and again in 2004.  It gave impetus to programs and activities described in this section.   By the end of 2007, ACLAM had a total of 837 members, 686 active, 134 retired and 17 honorary members.

The Foundation continued to be active.  Funds were received by contributions from Diplomates and organizations in the field.  Several grants were awarded in cooperation with other agencies.  Through 2006 the Foundation had funded 57 grants in the amount of almost $1 million. 

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In 2007 ACLAM completed its 50th year.  ACLAM had matured to a well organized, influential and respected College.  ACLAM had become a people knowledgeable in the care, techniques, models and laws involving research animals.  It bridges the knowledge between human and non-human animals, not only for scientists, but for regulators, other professional groups and the general public.  Throughout ACLAM’s existence, knowledge has been a primary goal.  Knowledge demanded of Diplomates certified through the exam.  Knowledge spread through textbooks, seminars, workshops and position papers.  Knowledge obtained through research.  Knowledge shared with others nationally and internationally.  And all this knowledge, first and foremost, now and in the future, dedicated to the care and well-being of laboratory animals.