Any institution that carries out animal experiments – including the FLI – must appoint at least one qualified person to ensure that animal welfare is observed internally and to monitor this (animal welfare officer). This internal self-regulation is laid down in Germany’s Animal Welfare Act (§ 10) as well as in the Animal Welfare Regulation Governing Experimental Animals (§ 5) and is unique in this form both in Europe and throughout the world.
The duties of animal welfare officers are regulated by law and may only be exercised by qualified veterinarians who have completed further training in laboratory animal science, a separate scientific field within veterinary medicine. Another requirement is that animal welfare officers remain independent and free to perform their duties without interference. This means that animal protection officers can present their concerns and suggestions directly to the board of directors/institute management. If they order the discontinuation of an animal experiment, this must be complied with and the animal welfare officers must not suffer any disadvantages as a result.
The main tasks of the animal welfare officer are:
- To ensure compliance with animal welfare within the framework of legal requirements, terms and conditions
- To work towards the implementation of the 3R principle
- To advise scientists with regard to the planning, performance and documentation of animal experiments
- To communicate with the authorities
- To monitor the conditions in which the test animals are kept and the conducting of experiments with the corresponding documentation
- To submit input to the animal welfare committee
- To support the training of animal care staff as well as scientific personnel.
The tasks of animal welfare officers (in German only)