Establishing or accessing an animal ethics committee

The Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, known as the scientific use code, requires that institutions with sufficient animal use for scientific purposes to establish an animal ethics committee (AEC) directly responsible to the governing body of the institution.

Small institutions or non-institutional persons with insufficient animal use to establish their own AEC may make arrangements to access an existing external AEC or to share an AEC with another institution.

Read the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.

Establishing an animal ethics committee

An AEC must be established in compliance with the scientific use code.

Steps in establishing an AEC

  1. The head of the institution ensures that the institution understands the legal obligations relating to AECs, that they understand and are prepared to commit the resources necessary for the AEC to function effectively, and that there are sufficient potential applications to sustain the AEC (refer to sections 2.1.and 2.2 of the scientific use code).
  2. The head of the institution or organisation advertises or seeks expressions of interest for suitable members in each category. There must be a minimum membership as defined in clause 2.2.4 of the scientific use code.
  3. A chairperson is appointed by the institution, and AEC members are selected based on their qualifications and background and whether they meet the membership criteria outlined in clause 2.2.4 of the scientific use code. (Note: The scientific use code requires one-third of the AEC members to be from categories C and D.)
  4. The institution, in consultation with the potential members, formulates the AEC's terms of reference and the AEC's governance and operating procedures as per the code clauses 2.2.1 and 2.2.18.
  5. Members are appointed as described in the institution's governance and operating procedures.
  6. The institution registers with Biosecurity Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and provides further details about their AEC as part of their application. Note: The membership of the AEC must be accepted by Biosecurity Queensland.
  7. All AEC members sign a confidentiality agreement and accept in writing the AEC's terms of reference.
  8. Training for all AEC members is carried out according to the requirements in the code. Information on training packages can be obtained from Biosecurity Queensland and the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART).
  9. The AEC advertises its formation to the relevant animal users and seeks proposals for an inaugural meeting. Subsequent meetings are scheduled at intervals to allow effective functioning of the AEC.
  10. The AEC operates according to its terms of reference; governance and operating procedures and Section 2.3 of the code and reports to Biosecurity Queensland as required by the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.

Accessing an animal ethics committee

Large institutions that use animals for scientific purposes can establish their own animal ethics committees (AECs). External registrants such as smaller institutions or private companies that do not have their own AEC can seek permission from another institution to use its AEC (Note: there is no obligation for an institution to accept external registrants). They must have a formal written agreement with the institution and its AEC (refer to clause 2.6.2 of the code). When assessing an application for registration as a scientific user, Biosecurity Queensland will confirm that arrangements between an external registrant and the proposed AEC of another institution have been made.

Fees and charges

The institution hosting the AEC may determine its own fees and charges. Some AECs operate on a fee-for-service basis for assessment of applications, reviews and site inspections. Applicants will need to check fee structures with the institution or the nominated AEC.

To obtain a list of AECs that will assess external applications, phone 13 25 23 (interstate (07) 3404 6999) and ask for Biosecurity Queensland's animal ethics unit.

To register as a person using animals for scientific purposes, you will need to engage with an AEC before completing a Biosecurity Queensland application.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries AEC

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries operates an AEC to provide public access for institutions unable to establish their own AEC.

These institutions can seek approval from the department's AEC to conduct scientific activities involving the use of animals in Queensland.

Read more about the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries AEC.