Washington Update

FASEB Supports NIH OLAW’s Proposed Guidance for Cephalopod Care and Use

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, December 20, 2023
On December 7, FASEB submitted comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) in response to its Request for Information (NOT-OD-23-176) regarding proposed guidance for cephalopod research. The guidance states that assured institutions are expected to ensure that cephalopod activities are subject to review by oversight bodies such as Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs).

In its comments, FASEB expresses support for IACUC oversight of cephalopods, but notes that commensurate support is needed to address outstanding knowledge gaps in cephalopod biology and welfare. To achieve this, FASEB recommends a two-pronged approach to complement OLAW’s proposed guidance:
  1. Creating cephalopod-specific training resources for IACUCs, attending veterinarians, and other relevant animal care staff.
  2. Establishing dedicated funding mechanisms for investigators to study cephalopod welfare and refinement.
Although certain resources are currently available—such as OLAW’s Cephalopods in Research webpage—many of these websites are difficult to navigate and centered on European standards. Given the vital role IACUCs and veterinarians play in monitoring animals and approving research protocols, updated resources such as factsheets, training modules, and interactive workshops specifically designed for these stakeholders will facilitate proper oversight and care for cephalopods. Recognizing that veterinary expertise in cephalopod care is largely absent at institutions, FASEB also recommends OLAW collaborate with other NIH institutes to provide veterinary and education grants (e.g., R25 grants) specific to cephalopod welfare and care to strengthen the expertise needed to properly maintain cephalopod colonies.

Finally, FASEB emphasizes that the absence of research and funding mechanisms to study cephalopod welfare will prohibit institutions from adjusting policies and practices in accordance with the latest science, as required by the proposed guidance. Therefore, FASEB suggests OLAW work with the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs to develop funding mechanisms that address key scientific gaps in the field, including analgesics and other refinement techniques, housing standards, pain perception, and species-specific socialization needs.