Animal research

Animal research in Australia hit by Covid disruption

Continued border closure affects research animal users as supplier’s future hangs in the balance

Australia’s supply of research animals is threatened by the continued closure of the Western Australian border due to Covid-19.

On January 20, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced the indefinite continuation of the shutdown, which was due to end on February 5.

An email from the WA-based Animal Resources Center had been sent on January 13, advising customers that “due to the current Covid status, there have been major disruptions to flights out of Perth – flights we we use to transport our animals”. The email said supply should return to normal when the border reopens, but McGowan’s decision cast that into doubt.

The centre, which supplies laboratory animals to almost all Australian universities and medical research institutes, is already under threat of closure, although efforts are underway to save it. It mainly supplies specially bred rats and mice.

A New South Wales-based researcher said she was told the center could not say when the animals due to arrive on January 12 would arrive. “It’s very stressful for me and for my students, especially PhD students who have a deadline to submit their applications,” she said.

Threat of closure

The crisis comes as Australian research animal users also wait to hear whether the center will be saved. In July 2021, it was revealed that the Western Australian government would not continue to subsidize its operation. A December update on the center’s site says that following a review, the state is issuing a call for tenders.

“The WA Government and the Animal Resources Center appreciate that stakeholders need to feel confident that the range of services and high quality product they expect from the center will be maintained, so that research can continue without interruption,” the update says, but it stresses that the government intends to “exit” the business.

A small number of organizations have been selected for further discussion, with offers due on March 22. It is currently unclear whether the new operator would take over Murdoch University’s existing facilities.

Malcolm France, a consultant veterinarian who works in laboratory animal care, said he understands a number of animal shipments have been affected, even with some priority shipments under EU rules. medical supply. Animals should be transported by air rather than by road for reasons of animal welfare and convenience.

He told Research Professional News that supply chain disruptions were a concern not only for research reasons, but also because of the risk of wasting animals raised to order, which was an ethical issue.

The Animal Resources Center was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

Transparency Agreement

Meanwhile, moves towards more openness in animal research are underway.

France said that as a member of the Australian and New Zealand Council for Animal Care in Research and Education, he convened a working group which drafted an “opening agreement”.

The agreement, similar to documents adopted in the UK, some European countries and last year in New Zealand, is a voluntary commitment for institutions wishing to demonstrate their commitment to greater transparency about their use of animals. The board hopes the agreement will soon be out for public comment and adopted at its annual conference in July.