photo of Dr. Bettina Schemera, left, and Jennifer Spooner

Auburn Veterinary Medicine Maintains Full AAALAC Accreditation

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Animals play a key role in veterinary education and the advancement of medical care, and Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine strives to ensure that it follows only the highest standards in the care of animals under its charge.

To validate that obligation, the college has attained full accreditation by the Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, International, or, AAALAC — a distinction that the college has maintained continuously since 2003.

“It is like having the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for your animal program,” said Dr. Patricia Rynders, director of the Division of Laboratory Animal Health and also the University Veterinarian. “AAALAC is an international program and accreditation tells the world that your program has met or exceeded all regulatory requirements and that it follows only the highest standards of care.”

All vertebrate and some invertebrate animal species fall under auspices of AAALAC accreditation, according to Dr. Rynders. Attaining accreditation and maintaining it is a journey of continuous improvement.

“We undergo this evaluation every three years,” Dr. Rynders said. “But it takes a true team effort working daily to maintain the environment and the care that is expected and required. The college is fortunate to have such dedicated individuals.”

Evaluation is conducted by a multi-person team of animal welfare and care professionals from various organizations and institutions operating on behalf of AAALAC, Dr. Rynders said. Its visit follows a period of self-assessment by the institution seeking accreditation, and participation is voluntary.

The AAALAC accreditation team made its site visit to the college in February. The college was notified in July that it would be re-accredited.

“It’s a three-year cycle, but we really never stop seeking ways to improve our animal care program and striving for excellence above and beyond,” Dr. Rynders said. “It’s a hard process and it can be very stressful, but it is something that we should do and that we are very proud of.”

AAALAC International is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs. Having the accreditation and the acknowledgement of an organization such as AAALAC attests that the accredited organization follows ethical and humane practices in its animal education and research undertakings, above those mandated by law.

More than 1,000 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies and other research institutions in 47 countries have earned AAALAC accreditation. Some of the institutions that have earned AAALAC accreditation include the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The American Red Cross, and the National Institutes of Health.

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Mitch Emmons (emmonmb@auburn.edu)