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“Animal welfare is the position that animals should be treated humanely,” remarked Dr. Ma. Gracia Dizon-Flores, the National Animal Welfare focal person of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), during the second part of the session on Orientation on Ethics in Research conducted by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) for its staff on 1 February 2015.
According to Dr. Dizon-Flores, animals are used in experiments and researches because of the similarities of their physiologies and anatomies to those of humans, thereby contributing to the understanding and development of treatments for a wide range of human and animal diseases. Animal studies are also used in determining the efficacy and safety of vaccines, medicines, consumer products, and a wide range of other substances.
However, Dr. Dizon-Flores pointed out that animals used in research and testing may experience pain and distress. “Philippine animal welfare laws and policies mandate that pain and distress should be avoided. If not avoidable, such suffering in test animals should be limited to only that which is necessary in order to attain study objectives,” she noted.
Among the existing policies governing this issue is the Animal Welfare Act of 1998 (Republic Act No. 8485) which called for the supervision and regulation of the establishments utilized for breeding, maintaining, keeping, treating, or training of animals either as objects of trade or as household pets. According to Dr. Dizon-Flores, the owners of these facilities should secure certificates of registration from BAI through the Animal Health and Welfare Division (AHWD) before operating such businesses.
To secure a certificate of registration, the owner should submit a notarized application form for registration (BAI-AWD form#1), with other requirements such as photocopy of Mayor’s permit, to BAI-AHWD.
Likewise, any private or government entity aiming to conduct scientific procedures using animals should acquire the appropriate authorization from the Bureau, as stated in the DA Administrative Order (AO) No. 40.
The requirements for the authorization to conduct research using animals are the following: (1) Description of the Animal Care and Use Program(ACUP) signed by a duly licensed veterinarian representing the entity, (2) Animal Care and Use Program Accreditation Certificate issued by a duly recognized body or association, (3) Animal Technician Training Program on Laboratory animal care and use, and (4) Certification of Assurance that an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is in existence in the establishment.
“Deciding how to apply scientific findings involves ethics and enforcing these decisions in society involves the law,” Dr. Dizon-Flores emphasized.
To avoid pain and distress and assure optical welfare for animals in research and testing, she advised applying methods such as the use of pain relieving drugs, humane endpoints, and supportive veterinary care and husbandry.
“Animal welfare is in our hands. Animal welfare is human welfare,” Dr. Dizon-Flores concluded.
The Orientation on Ethics in Research session was conducted through the initiative of the PCHRD Institution Development Division (IDD) and the Human Resource Unit, as these offices aimed to assist Council staff in learning the ethical review process in the country and recognizing the importance of animal ethics in research.