Center for Comparative Medicine and Surgery

The Center for Comparative Medicine and Surgery (CCMS) is a centralized, shared resource supporting animal research via veterinary, husbandry care, and research collaboration with the faculty at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. We have been fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC - #00002) since 1967. We also provide assistance with research protocol design, clinical and anatomic pathology, and in the training of research personnel in the care and use of laboratory animals.

Trusted Colleagues:

We are preparing for our upcoming site visit by the AAALACi (formerly known as Association for the Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International). AAALACi is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs. More than 900 companies, universities, hospitals, government agencies and other research institutions in 37 countries have earned AAALACi accreditation, demonstrating their commitment to responsible animal care and use. While participation in the AAALACi program is voluntary, accreditation is considered the "Gold Standard" of animal care and use. Most funding agencies (NIH, NSF, etc.) consider accreditation status as a factor in funding decisions. Our institution has a longstanding history of continued full accreditation with AAALACi since 1967. The site visit dates for the re-accreditation of the Program for Animal Care and Use will be Monday, April 3rd through Wednesday, April 5th. Two site visitors from AAALACi will be here to conduct the review. Their purpose is to evaluate all aspects of the animal care and use program (Occupational Health and Safety, Biohazards Use, Security, Engineering, and Institutional support).

The site visitors may request to tour any areas on campus where animal research is conducted, including representative laboratories. We will not know which labs the site visitors will want to visit until they arrive and review IACUC protocols. However, we will call ahead to make sure someone is there if your lab is selected for a visit. We ask that you have key personnel (those who use animals directly) available to answer any questions that may arise over these three days. Please review any IACUC requirements for your approved protocols (weight monitoring, body condition scoring, food/fluid regulation, postoperative analgesia, etc.) so that you have records available and are ready to discuss how you comply with these requirements.

If anyone has specific questions about the site visit please do not hesitate to contact any member of the CCMS veterinary/ husbandry management team directly. We want to thank you all in advance for your cooperation as we look forward to this thorough review of our program.


CCMS Management


When is our site visit scheduled?

On April 3-5, 2017, an AAALACi site visit team will visit our campus. The site visit team will be comprised of a member of AAALACi's council on Accreditation and one other Ad Hoc representative; both visitors this year are veterinarians. During their review, the AAALAC team will assess our program to verify that we are upholding the principles outlined in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals and other appropriate reference resources. The site team’s report, which includes commendations and recommendations, is then presented and reviewed by the AAALAC's Council.  Based on this deliberation, our accreditation status is determined. This entire process is completely confidential, allowing frank and open dialogue between our institution and AAALAC.

After an institution earns accreditation, it must be re-evaluated every three years in order to maintain its accredited status. Currently there are more than 1000 accredited organizations in 39 countries.

Accreditation benefits our institution and the animals in our care in many ways. Each time a new organization becomes accredited, or each time we are accredited, it helps to raise the global benchmark for animal well-being in science.

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai was first accredited in 1967, and we have been continuously accredited since that time. We are one of the longest standing accredited institutions in the world.

Why AAALAC International is different than an USDA or FDA inspection?

AAALACi is not a regulatory agency. AAALAC is a voluntary, peer-review accreditation program. Site visitors are not inspectors—they are peer-reviewers, who will be visiting the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) to provide a collegial evaluation and verify we are meeting AAALAC International standards. The entire process is completely confidential and not subject to FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act).

How does AAALACi accreditation benefit our research program (both corporately and individually)?

Minimizing variables. As you well know, reliable research results depend on eliminating extraneous variables. AAALACi accreditation helps minimize the "animal variable" by encouraging consistent, high standards for animal care and use across the entire research community. The accreditation process engages scientists, veterinarians, managers and administrators in an independent, rigorous assessment of our animal care and use program. This validates the animals used in ISMMS research as healthy, well cared for, and free from undue stress—all of which translates into better, more consistent research outcomes and encouraging of collaboration with other researchers.

Encouraging performance-based oversight: 

AAALACi's standards are "performance-based, "meaning assessment includes the larger picture of the intent and process as well as the end result. AAALACi does not use a series of narrow, unyielding "engineering" requirements as is commonly seen in an inspection process. The assessment will focus on the IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) and confirm the oversight process includes a performance-based approach. Unlike an inspection, the accreditation process provides an opportunity to explain and justify our methodology and anticipated outcomes, instead of being forced to follow prescribed approaches.

Enhancing funding opportunities:

Many private biomedical organizations strongly recommend that grantees be supported by AAALACi accredited animal programs. Government agencies also regard AAALACi accreditation as evidence of a commitment to excellence. Accreditation ensures private and public funding sources that animal use will be justified and humane; our accredited status can have a favorable impact on your proposal's review.

The Center for Comparative Medicine and Surgery has for several months been preparing for the AAALAC accreditation site visit scheduled for April 3-5, 2017. As we continue to prepare at the program level, it is very important for each laboratory to prepare as well at the laboratory level. Here are a few ideas to jump-start your lab preparation for the 2017 edition of our accreditation review.

Are your protocol documents readily available for lab members who are protocol participants to read?
Are surgical or procedural records complete and up to date?
Are controlled drugs secured and records maintained accurately?
All expired drugs identified for disposal?
Are anesthesia devices calibrated and certified?
Are Biosafety Cabinets & other equipment certifications  current?
Do you have copies of your SOPs?
Is there a copy of “The Guide” available in the lab for staff to reference?


We have compiled a list of key areas you can prepare your lab for beforehand. During the site visit AAALAC representatives will visit the animal facilities and select research labs where animal procedures occur. While we try to give advance notice to labs they wish to visit, often they will make impromptu requests during the inspections. So below are some common topics and issues that have arisen during previous site visits.

Know your protocols: The most important thing you and your staff can do to prepare for a site visit or any other kind of inspection is to review and understand what has been approved in the animal protocols. If you discover that changes need to be made you will need to submit a modification. Site visitors will talk to you and your staff about the procedures you perform and they will review your protocols to ensure congruency.

Ensure personnel are listed on the protocol and have access to the most recent versions:  Since research personnel and students rotate in and out of labs frequently it can often be difficult to keep the paperwork updated. It is very important that all personnel working with animals are listed on the protocols under which they are working and that they have the ability to look at those protocols whenever needed.

Social Housing

The ISMMS IACUC policy requires that social housing is the required form of housing of all social animals. Principal investigators are encouraged to design experiments that would best avoid isolation of social animals, such as procuring animals in stable groups or pairs, maintaining them in such groups and, whenever possible, ending experiments in ways that would not result in an extended isolation of individual animals. Experimental paradigms and scientific requirements may result in singly housed animals. This condition may be due to the sequential removal of individuals of a social group due to the progression of an experiment. In such cases, animal may be singly housed for up to 72 hours. After this period of time, animals can only be singly housed with IACUC approval scientific justification, social incompatibility or veterinary concern.

Personnel Protection Equipment (PPE): Follow signage for PPE on doors of animal rooms. Ensure you are wearing a laboratory coat and gloves when working with animals in your laboratory space.

Maintaining surgical records: While detailed animal health records may not be required for the species you work with, it is very important that you are keeping some record of surgical procedures on specific animals or groups of animals. These records should reflect what procedures the animals have undergone and verification that they received the appropriate pre- and post-operative treatment, including analgesia. For rodents, please utilize the green surgery cards for any animals housed in the vivarium that are recovering and/or receiving post-operative treatment. 

Proper aseptic technique: It is crucial to apply the appropriate aseptic technique for each procedure (see IACUC policy # 5 and 6 for further review of aseptic guidelines)

Gas vaporizer certification: Anesthesia vaporizers must be validated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or triannually. CCMS can assist with identifying a vendor to certify your machine (estimated cost of $50/machine). Please contact Ron Primm, CCMS OR Supervisor, for further information.

Labeled materials: All materials (such as drug formulations, disinfectants in spray bottles, etc.) must be properly labeled, to include the name of the product and the expiration date of the mixture.

Clutter: Remove all materials stored on the floor. Do not store cardboard in the lab if used for animals. If you store research support materials within the vivarium, please ensure that it is stored in a clean sanitizable container, and all supplies are neat and tidy.

F-Air Canisters: Weigh F-Air canisters and record weight before the first use; weigh after each anes- thetic session and record weight; discard after a weight change of 50 grams. F-Air canisters should be resting on the side, not standing on end.

Expired materials: Any substance, material or device that goes in or on an animal as part of a survival procedure must be within its expiration date. Any substance used for anesthesia, analgesia, or treatment as part of a survival/nonsurvival procedure must be within its expirationdate.

Controlled substances: Controlled substances must have corresponding log sheets that have been completed with all required information; and the substances must be secured behind 2 locks. Review the Controlled Substance Procedures for more details.

Signage: Know and understand what cage markers indicate and how to respond (such as: Attention Sick Animal, Clinical, Separated, and Overcrowded). If you have questions, please contact your respective CCMSHusbandry Facility Supervisor.

Special diet storage: Please contact your respective vivarium supervisor where your animals are housed to store food within the animal facility for subsequent use. This is preferred over animal food storage in the laboratory. If you are storing a nonstandard animal diet or food in your lab, assure there is proper signage, and the diet is stored in conditions based on the manufacturer recommendations. Food must be stored in air tight containers and labeled with the name, manufacture date and/or open date, and the expiration date. If the food item is a common human foodstuff, it must be labeled “not for human consumption”.

Service Requisitions: All service requisitions should be accurate and up to date. No special food or water (or other husbandry) experimental parameters will be honored unless there is a valid service requisition with IACUC approval to reflect these aims.

Needles: Please do not recap needles. Needles and sharps should be placed directly into the sharps container.

Safety: Common safety issues found in labs include un- restrained gas cylinders, failing to replace covers on eyewash stations and conducting work in uncertified chemical fume hoods or biosafety cabinets. If you see any of these issues in the CCMS housing facilities, please report it to the building supervisor or care staff.

Emergency Vet Care: Know and understand how to contact a CCMS veterinarian for animal health support or emergencies. There is a veterinarian on-call 24 hours a day. The Emergency coverage information is posted in the Animal Facility’s Supervisor office.

THE KEY! Just relax and be proud of the work you do in your lab. If you are doing the things listed above and aware of the activities in your lab, there is no reason you can’t be open and excited to discuss your work and animal use with the site visitors.