What is the appropriate use of anesthetics for a guinea
pig? What is the delivery time for a dozen albino mice? What
can I do for my sick sheep?
For university researchers, any of these questions can
be answered by members of the Johns Hopkins Animal Care
Program, an in-house group comprised of the Research Animal
Resources Office and the Animal Care and Use Committee.
Research Animal Resources is responsible for the daily
care of animals at Johns Hopkins. The Animal Care and Use
Committee reviews and approves all animal research protocols
to ensure that use of these subjects is essential, that any
pain or discomfort to animals is minimized and that federal
regulations and policies are met.
On Tuesday, March 10, the Animal Care Program at
Hopkins will host its first formal orientation to update new
and veteran employees on the latest policies and methods
related to research animal care and use. The orientation
will be held at 10 a.m. in the Broadway Research Building,
G-001, East Baltimore campus.
James Owiny, the university's training and compliance
administrator for animal use, says that the goal of the
orientation is to enable attendees to navigate through the
various services offered by the Animal Care Program.
"The seminar is an opportunity to discuss best
practices," says Owiny (pronounced Oh-Win), a
board-certified veterinarian who holds a doctorate in
reproductive physiology from the University of Liverpool.
"Just as research at the bench advances over time,
veterinary practices do so. A few years ago we were using
water bottles and a lot of open caging for mice; now we are
moving to individually ventilated cages and automated
watering systems. This not only reduces disease transmission
but also improves the work environmnt for the animal care
staff and investigators."
Johns Hopkins has animal facilities at the East
Baltimore and Homewood campuses, Bayview Medical Center and
a farm owned by the university in northern Baltimore
All animals for use in research at JHU are purchased
through the Research Animal Resources Office. RAR personnel
also can assist with technical aspects of animal research,
such as the appropriate use of equipment and medications.
Prior to a research study, RAR personnel provide
consultation services that can help investigators select the
appropriate animal species to carry out a specific study,
provide existing animal models of human diseases, illustrate
anatomic and physiological peculiarities of most animals
used in research, demonstrate techniques and dosages of
anesthesia and analgesia, and show how to take blood
samples, among a host of other tips on procedures and
Owiny says that even though a researcher has filed all
the appropriate protocol paperwork and received approval for
animal use, there is much an investigator can learn to
improve his or her research practices and safeguard the
health and well-being of the animals.
He gave the example of antibiotic use, which will be
the featured topic of the March 25 Animal Care and Use
Committee information seminar, part of the series held every
fourth Thursday at noon in the Ross Building, room 403.
"The first question a researcher must ask is, 'Do I
need to even use antibiotics?'" Owiny says. "'If so, which
kind of antibiotics should I be using? What dose, and for
how long?' Improper dosages could increase the risk of
antibiotic resistance. You also have to be careful about
what kinds of antibiotic you are using because some have
toxicity. This is the kind of information we want to get
across to our researchers. We want to tell them there might
be better ways for them to achieve their scientific
Research Animal Resources also provides transport,
health certificates and veterinary services for animals, in
addition to their day-to-day care such as feeding and
cleaning. To provide all its services, the group has a
75-person animal-care staff, including clinical
veterinarians, lab-animal veterinary fellows, vet
technicians, veterinary pathologists and pathology
Almost all the services provided by Research Animal
Resources are free.
Twice a year, the Animal Care Program provides tutorial
services for animal protocols at the Thursday information
seminars. Owiny says there are numerous federal regulations
and guidelines with which researchers need to be in
compliance. He says that it's vital that protocols cover all
the bases so that multiple revisions aren't needed, or the
researcher is not denied animal use.
"Like grant writing, there are certain nuances you have
to put into animal protocols that confirm that the
researcher knows what he or she is doing, and that all the
animal use is necessary," he says.
Owiny, who was born in Uganda, has spent the majority
of his professional career either working with or
administering over research animals. While at Cornell
University, he looked after a flock of 800 sheep that were
being used in a reproductive study. Among his other duties,
Owiny says he took great pains to administer to the health
of the sheep, both for their well-being and for the success
of the study.
"I always felt that you can use animals to achieve your
research goals in ways that are more beneficial to them," he
says. "In many ways, I feel that I am participating in the
research here even though I'm no longer sitting there
tweaking gels or administering things to animals, because
the investigators here call me up all the time with
questions like, 'I want to do this study; what kind of
animals will help me, or do I even need them?' Part of what
I do here is ensure that there is no unnecessary use of
Owiny says that the Animal Care Program intends to have
three orientations a year. To register for the one on
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 443-287-3738.