AWERB functions and tasks

Group of laboratory beagles

Most institutional ethics and animal care and use committees around the world have similar functions, although they operate under different regulatory systems. The functions and tasks of UK Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Bodies (AWERBs) are summarised below as an example. All of these are important to achieving good science, good animal (and staff) welfare and a comprehensive consideration of all ethical issues.

If you are involved with an ethics committee, such as an AWERB, you may like to consider how effectively each task is fulfilled. Does the committee have clear objectives for each task, and does it regularly assess how effectively these are achieved?

Generally, the AWERB should: 

  • provide a forum for discussion and development of ethical advice to the establishment licence holder on all matters relating to animal welfare, care and use at the establishment;
  • promote awareness of animal welfare and the 3Rs;
  • support the 'named people', and other staff dealing with animals, on animal welfare and ethical issues; and
  • help to promote a 'Culture of Care'.

More specific tasks are to: 

  • provide advice to staff on welfare of animals relating to their acquisition, care and use;
  • advise on the application of the 3Rs;
  • advise the establishment licence holder whether to support project proposals primarily from a local perspective, bringing local knowledge and expertise to bear on the harms and benefits and practical, scientific and ethical issues;
  • establish and review management and operational processes for monitoring, reporting and follow up in relation to animal welfare;
  • follow the development and outcome (retrospective review) of projects and assist with the retrospective assessment of relevant projects required by law;
  • advise on rehoming laboratory animals;
  • respond to enquiries and consider advice received from the National Committee for the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific Purposes (the Animals in Science Committee, in the UK).

For more detailed information and advice on how these functions, and others, are interpreted and implemented, see the RSPCA/LASA Guiding Principles for AWERBs, European Commission Working Document on Animal Welfare Bodies and Home Office Guidance on the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

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