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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 8, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 25
Helping Hands for JHU's Research Animal Population

As training and compliance administrator for animal use at Johns Hopkins, James Owiny is the point person for researchers' questions and concerns.

Editor's note: This is the second in an occasional series about in-house services and resources available to university faculty and staff.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 County.

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 strategies.

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 goals."

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 trainees.

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 animals." Owiny says that the Animal Care Program intends to have three orientations a year. To register for the one on Thursday, e-mail or call 443-287-3738.


Animal Care and Use Information Resources for Johns Hopkins Researchers

The Research Animal Resources Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for university holidays. After hours, callers can leave an appropriate message in the voice mail system and receive a timely response.

For veterinary care, or to order animals, call 410-955-3713.

For questions on health safety and environment concerns related to animal use, call 410-955-5929 or go to

For all other research animal questions, call 443-287-3738 or go to


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