The University of Otago is an internationally recognised research institution that conducts teaching and research involving the use of animals.
The aims of this research include development of new treatments for humans, and further knowledge that could lead to restoration of New Zealand's biodiversity. Animals are used when the biological systems being studied are too complex to be modelled in any other way. The use of research in animals is only allowed when the potential benefits outweigh the expected harm and when no alternative method is available.
The principles of the 3 Rs – a framework developed more than 50 years ago for performing humane research techniques – are at the centre of any use of animals at Otago.
The 3 Rs are:
- Replacement: replace animals with a non-animal alternative when possible
- Reduction: reduce the number of animals used to the minimum possible
- Refinement: refine methodology to minimise or eliminate impact of the research on animals
The University uses animals in some of its teaching laboratories with an approach that balances the educational experience with the principles of the 3 Rs. These laboratories are coupled with exercises that teach the principles of ethics in animal research to our future generations of scientists.
In 2021, the University signed the Openness Agreement on Animal research and Teaching in New Zealand. The agreement commits Otago to ensuring the public is well informed about animal research and teaching. It is initiated and led by the Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART).
Animal research at Otago is regulated by the Animal Ethics Committee (AEC). The primary function of the AEC is to review Animal Use Protocols (AUPs) submitted by Principal Investigators, to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and the University's Code of Ethical Conduct. The principles of the 3 Rs are at the core of its decision-making, ensuring very high ethical standards for the use of animals at the University of Otago.