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Requirements for Vertebrate Animal Projects


See a sample Form 5A for a project where the SRC has determined a Designated Supervisor is REQUIRED.

See a sample Form 5A for a project where the SRC has determined a Veterinarian and Designated Supervisor are REQUIRED.

See a sample Form 5A for a project where the SRC has determined a Veterinarian, a Designated Supervisor and Qualified Scientist are REQUIRED.


See a sample Form 5B for a project that was done at a Regulated Research Institution. Form 5A & Form 5B Form 1C Form 5A & Form 5B Form 5A & Form 5B

Tips for Forms & Projects:

Vertebrate Animal research includes projects involving:

  • Live, non-human vertebrate mammalian embryos for fetuses,
  • Tadpoles,
  • Bird and reptile eggs within three days (72 hours) of hatching; and
  • All other non-human vertebrates (including fish) at hatching or birth.

A project that involves behavioral observations and where:

  • there is no interaction with the animals being observed;
  • there is no manipulation of the animal environment in any way; AND
  • all federal and state agricultural, fish, game and wildlife laws and regulations are followed

does NOT need to be reviewed by an SRC prior to experimentation.

The Research Plan for a project that uses Vertebrate Animals must include the following:

  • A discussion of potential alternatives to the use of vertebrate animals and detailed justification as to why vertebrate animals must be used.
  • An explanation of the potential impact or contribution this research may have.
  • Detail all procedures to be used, including methods used to minimize potential discomfort, distress, pain and injury to the animals during the course of experimentation and detailed chemical concentrations and drug dosages if applicable.
  • Detail the number of animals being used, the species, strain, sex, age, etc. including justification for the number of animals planned for the research.
  • Describe the housing and oversight of daily care.
  • Discuss disposition of the animals at the termination of the study.

Vertebrate Animal research projects are categorized into two categories, those that can be done at a non-regulated site and those that must be done at a regulated research institution. Vertebrate Animal studies may be conducted at a non-regulated research site (home, school, farm, ranch, in the field, etc.) only if BOTH of the following apply to the study:

  • The research involves only agricultural, behavioral, observational or supplemental nutritional studies on animals AND
  • The research involves only non-invasive and non-intrusive methods that do not negatively affect an animal's health or well-being.

All other studies using vertebrate animals must be conducted at a regulated research institution.

No vertebrate animal deaths due to experimental procedures are permitted in any group or subgroup. Such a project will fail to qualify for competition.

  • Studies that are designed or anticipated to cause vertebrate animal death are prohibited.
  • Any death that occurs must be investigated by a veterinarian, the Qualified Scientist or the Designated Supervisor who is QUALIFIED to determine the cause of death. The project must be suspended until the investigation occurs and the results must be documented in writing.
  • If death was the result of the experimental procedures, the study must be terminated and the study will not qualify for competition at any level.

Research Projects at Non-Regulated Sites

The SRC must decide what type of supervision the project requires:

  • A Designated Supervisor is required for all Vertebrate animal Projects done at a non-regulated site.
  • A Veterinarian is not required for all Vertebrate Animal studies, but is recommended for experiments that involve supplemental nutrition and/or activities that would not be ordinarily encountered in the animal's daily life.
  • A Qualified Scientist is not required for all Vertebrate Animal studies, but may be suggested by the SRC.

Form 5A must be filled out by the researcher for each different type of animal being used and include the number of animals being used in the study, the housing and husbandry to be provided, and what will happen to the animals after experimentation.

Research Projects at Regulated Research Institutes

Form 5B must be filled out by the Qualified Scientist or the Principal Investigator at the regulated research institution. A copy of the regulated research institution IACUC approval letter must be attached to this form. The Qualified Scientist must describe the USDA Pain Category that the research falls under. The local SRC must also review the project to certify that the research complies with ISEF rules. This review should happen before experimentation begins.

Proper euthanasia at the end of experimentation for tissue removal and/or pathological analysis is permitted. Only the Qualified Scientist or an institutional representative may perform the euthanasia.

The following types of studies on vertebrate animals are prohibited:

  • All induced toxicity studies that could cause pain, distress or death, including but not limited to using alcohol, acid rain, insecticide, herbicide, or heavy metals or studies with the intent to study toxic effects of a substance on a vertebrate animal;
  • Behavioral experiments involving operant conditioning with adverse stimuli, mother/infant separation or induced helplessness;
  • Studies of pain; and
  • Predator/prey experiments.

SRC approval is needed BEFORE laboratory/data collection begins.

Read more about ISEF rules regarding Vertebrate Animal research. View Forms 5A & 5B Help Video.

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Last modified 12/14/17