Day Two Synthesis Session
Moderator: Katherine Thibault, National Ecological Observatory Network, Battelle
Katherine Thibault, science team lead for the National Ecological Observatory Network, Battelle, moderated the workshop Synthesis Session for Day Two. Session chairs from the second day of the workshop summarized and synthesized the information shared in their sessions and facilitated discussions to expand on key points and address questions from workshop participants.
SESSION FOUR SYNTHESIS: RESTRAINT AND HANDLING OF ANIMALS IN THE FIELD TO INCLUDE USE OF COMPOUNDS FOR CAPTURE AND HANDLING
Session Chair: Bonnie V. Beaver, Texas A&M University
Beaver summarized Tell’s discussion on the handling of animals in the field, including the use of compounds for capture and handling. Tell provided insight into the use of rules, regulations, and challenges of administering drugs to free-ranging wildlife, including concerns for animal welfare, human food safety, and public health. Beaver added that the discussion included information about how the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act permits veterinarians to prescribe extra-label uses of animal drugs and approved human drugs for animals, including those for wildlife. Drug residue is a concern when wildlife is harvested for human consumption and Tell discussed the establishment of withdrawal interval recommendations and provided extra-label drug use (ELDU) information resources.
Drew provided information on the use of pharmacological agents in carnivores, bears, and ungulates within the activities of a wildlife management agency. Such agencies focus on sustainable management and harvest of wildlife in natural environments, Beaver noted. The discussion focused on the breadth of chemical immobilization agents used during restraint and handling, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, and a variety of drugs, Beaver said. There are few pharmacological agents approved for use in wildlife species and some are compounded by veterinary compounding pharmacists in an extra-label manner, Beaver noted. The role of veterinarians is unique, Beaver said, because they are minimally involved in the direct supervision of drug use in wildlife research activities, often serving instead as the primary drug conduit for wildlife biologists who will be administering the drugs instead. To accomplish this, many wildlife biologists work within a veterinarian–client–patient relationship (VCPR), Beaver pointed out. Because most animals that are handled by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be released, it is important to consider the possibility that the animal will be harvested for human food. This requires that the animal be identified in a way that would make it possible for the public to learn about appropriate drug withdrawal intervention before consumption of a carcass, Beaver explained.
Beaver continued to the third speaker, Bryan, who discussed the complexities of multiple bureaucratic levels with oversight of wildlife animal use protocols (AUPs) in free-range species. Bryan emphasized that interactions, whether for research or management purposes, should incorporate best practices based on the highest standards of care. Policies, laws, protocols, and cultures are often disparate and unique across various oversight bodies and translating these differences into research management protocols can be a formidable barrier to successful research activities. It would be important for wildlife oversight bodies to take this into account when conducting assessments of animal use activities. Navigating the intersections of law and policy is an important part of conducting wildlife animal use activities for Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUCs) and researchers alike.
Beaver summarized Fair’s presentation that discussed challenges associated with the capture and handling of wild birds that are used in research. The diversity of bird species presents challenges in how each is captured, handled, and sampled, and the associated misconceptions, Beaver noted. Beaver pointed to biosafety considerations for fieldwork and the importance of these considerations to ensure that
appropriate measures are in place for the protections of both the researchers and the birds and the benefits of training for IACUC members to outline what is involved with conducting field research. Fair included information about the types of permits needed for working with birds and resources that can be helpful for both IACUC members and researchers. Lastly, Fair discussed the importance of preparations for humane euthanasia, when necessitated by protocol or in an emergency with an injured bird.
Beaver discussed Kenagy’s presentation working with wild small mammals and the various ways small mammals are used, including their capture, observation, release, recapture, transfer to laboratories, and euthanasia for museum specimen preparation. Kenagy outlined the ability to recapture many of the animals numerous times. Kenagy noted that many of the techniques used for the care and handling of inbred strains of laboratory rodents can be inappropriate and potentially detrimental for non-domestic small mammal species. In general, the collection and injection procedures are relatively easy to do, but there are many techniques used for capture and handling, Beaver said.
When asked to expand on the bioethical or physical issues relating to the removal of wild animals from the wild, releasing them to their capture location, or introducing captive animals, Kenagy replied that in some states, it is illegal to re-introduce a captured animal according to wildlife permits. Kenagy said that this is due to welfare concerns given that many animals are unable to live on their own in the wild after experiencing captivity. In addition, animal re-introduction risks pathogen introduction into natural environments. Beaver said in closing, public engagement and the visibility of wildlife research, especially in the age of social media, are important not only for research activities in urban settings but also in situations where the public will see wildlife being studied.
SESSION FIVE SYNTHESIS: ROLE OF VETERINARY MEDICINE IN WILDLIFE RESEARCH
Session Chair: Gail C. Golab, American Veterinary Medical Association
Golab moderated Session Five and summarized presentations on the role of veterinary medicine in wildlife research. Wild provided an overview of the multiple roles that veterinarians play in wildlife research. Golab said that, while their clinical role is important, veterinarians’ role in wildlife research is not limited to clinical medicine. Additional roles include consulting as an expert veterinarian on policy development, regulations, and implementation, and in helping to build relationships, Golab said. In the consulting role, activities can range from overseeing the administrative drugs, to training researchers on how to collect samples, to determining if pain medication is sufficient, Golab noted. She stressed that veterinarians are legally bound by their VCPR, which defines the roles and responsibility of the veterinarian and the client while providing care for the patient. Golab pointed out that meeting these responsibilities is a team effort between the veterinarian and the researcher and communication breakdown can result in undesirable consequences for all involved.
Golab also mentioned the broad knowledge veterinarians have in welfare-related and drug-related laws and how the Veterinarian’s Oath specifically mentions the protection of animal health, animal welfare, the conservation of animal resources, and public health. Thus, veterinarians are not only bound by legal considerations but also by ethical considerations. Golab suggested that if an agency does not have a policy in place to address the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a veterinarian can be an important contributor in encouraging and helping to develop a policy. If a policy exists, then a veterinarian can contribute to its implementation, according to Golab. With respect to the latter, she described some common barriers to compliance with the AWA. One example is lack of clarity regarding which activities require compliance. She noted that there are resources that can help fill these gaps. Finally, Wild talked about the opportunities veterinarians have to serve in relationship-building roles, including supporting interactions among wildlife biologists, ethics groups, wildlife regulatory agencies, and themselves. Ensuring good relationships becomes even more important because many components of wildlife research involve wildlife biologists and veterinarians working together collaboratively, Golab said.
Golab summarized Monteith and Michael W. Miller’s presentations where they addressed the differences in education, authority, responsibilities, and perspectives that can put wildlife biologists and veterinarians at odds. For example, Golab pointed to Monteith’s assertion that wildlife biologists have in-depth training in biology, ecology, and wildlife management, but that there is no standardized formal training in veterinary practices such as the basic principles of medicine and pain management. Golab continued to expand on Monteith’s point, saying that, depending on the areas in which they practice, veterinarians may not have the same degree of training in study design, data collection, statistics, and familiarity with the taxon under consideration. Additionally, Golab added, while the veterinarian has authority on legal grounds, the authority of the wildlife biologist rests in the position of the principal investigator (PI) and is granted to them through recognition of their expertise and experience. In addition, the overarching focus and research interest of wildlife biologists and veterinarians can diverge, Golab said. Whereas a wildlife biologist may be focused on conservation and the recovery of a population of animals, veterinarians may often be more focused on individual animals, their welfare, and preventive medicine. According to Golab, both speakers agreed on the importance of mutual understanding of the commonalities and differences in veterinarians and wildlife biologist roles. When asked about specific challenges, Monteith mentioned that a conflict about project ownership can have a “chilling effect” on the project.
Golab touched on Miller’s list that noted understanding and respect for the rules, responsibilities, and differences in professional perspectives and standards can lead to consistent application of animal welfare laws to field studies. Golab pointed to additional challenges Miller mentioned for consideration, including the availability of wildlife medicine experts in the field and oversight settings; navigating the rules related to veterinary practice, including ELDU; and the inability of veterinarians to participate in research activities that fall under their practice authority and responsibility. Golab summarized Monteith and Miller’s four suggested ideas for how to help build relationships between wildlife biologists and veterinarians. First, mutual respect, including recognition and acceptance of different perspectives, can be a helpful initial step. Second, training can be another opportunity, specifically for wildlife biologists in stress and pain physiology and management and training for both wildlife biologists and veterinarians in animal welfare laws and ethics, with specific application to wildlife studies. Third, additional data on the animal welfare impacts of capture and handling may make it easier to set and publish standards for acceptable practices. Fourth, informal veterinary consultations could be considered early in field study planning as well as the inclusion of wildlife experts and wildlife medicine experts in institutional review processes for wildlife research activities. Both Monteith and Miller emphasized that there are multiple examples of successful relationships that can serve as points of reference, Golab said.
Golab concluded Session Five by discussing Mulcahy’s experience with surgeries conducted on free-ranging animals in the field. Mulcahy focused on regulations and animal welfare concerns related to surgeries rather than specific techniques and noted that surgery is one of the most intrusive processes for wild animals. Surgeries are conducted for a range of purposes in wildlife research, including obtaining tissue samples, implanting electronic devices, manipulating fertility, and marking, Golab said. As such, field surgeries are a key component of wildlife research. Golab elaborated on Mulcahy’s suggestion that conducting surgeries where the animals are captured is both sufficient and best for the welfare of the animal and this involves a willingness on the part of the surgeon to adapt their training to challenging locations. Golab noted that questions commonly arise as to who can perform surgery on wild animals as the practice of veterinary medicine is largely regulated at the state level. Golab expanded by saying that surgery on animals is generally considered to be the practice of veterinary medicine, but some exceptions and discretion are applied for certain activities, including for animal research.
Golab said that most surgeries on wild birds and mammals are conducted by veterinarians; however, surgeries performed on fish are typically performed by biologists. Golab suggested that this may be, in part, because of how these species are addressed within the AWA. The goal of field surgeons is to produce high-quality, repeatable results to support the goals of the research activities. Golab emphasized that it is important for biologists conducting surgeries on wild animals to meet the same standards as veterinarians doing the same surgery.
Golab addressed drug use in field surgery. Drugs are U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for a specific species, purpose, dosage, and route of administration. Any drugs used outside the label are placed under the oversight of veterinarians and they are accountable for that use. In addition to considerations around ELDU, there are considerations around the routine use of antibiotics with surgery due to concerns about the emergence of drug resistance. Golab mentioned the importance of judicious use of antibiotics in conjunction with wildlife research. The use of controlled substances includes drugs used for capture and anesthesia, and these are regulated under the Controlled Substances Act. There is a researcher registration available from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that allows for the legal possession of drugs for research protocols, Golab stated, but these are still prescription drugs that are labeled under the use of the VCPR. There are also legal requirements for their storage and accounting, and enforcement can include unannounced onsite audits by DEA agents. The presentation concluded with Mulcahy addressing the use of guidelines, standards of care, and best practices, recognizing their value, but also noted that they are guidance, rather than law or regulation, Golab said.
SESSION SIX SYNTHESIS: PAIN AND DISTRESS, EUTHANASIA, HUMANE KILLING, AND LETHAL TAKE
Session Chair: Robert S. Sikes, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Sikes summarized themes from the session on pain and distress, euthanasia, humane killing, and lethal take. Sikes pointed to the challenges associated with the terminology used for the humane ending of animals’ lives, especially on an implementation level, where conditions and circumstances are highly variable when animals are wild and free-ranging and noted that the use of the animals is a consideration in selecting the methods by which the animal’s life is to be ended. Sikes referred to the speakers’ point that options available for ending an animal’s life might not meet the criteria for approved forms of euthanasia, as defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals (AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines). The diverse circumstances associated with field settings present challenges, particularly if the oversight body is not well versed in wildlife-related activities, Sikes said.
Sikes summarized David S. Miller’s point that the AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines are not one size fits all because context matters. Sikes shared that a key challenge for wildlife researchers is to consider how to foster broader recognition that oversight bodies do have the latitude to approve other means for ending an animal’s life in these circumstances. The terms “lethal take” and “humane killing” are probably not found in protocol forms that are not focused on wildlife, Sikes added, but these are likely the most applicable terms for many instances involving the death of wild animals. Thus, investigators proposing and oversight bodies reviewing wildlife activities would benefit from familiarity with these terms, Sikes said. The primary focus of the oversight body is to identify options that are humane, given the species and the conditions that exist at that time.
Another key message, as articulated by Sikes, was the need for flexibility and adaptability at every level, from investigators and oversight bodies, because circumstances and species are highly variable in field settings. Sikes explained that for the investigator this may mean consideration of a wide range of options and illustrating the need for those options to their oversight body. It is important for the range of options to be suitable not only for the target animals but also for potential non-target species, he added, which may be unexpected ones. Furthermore, there are exceptions and special circumstances that may occur. For example, a researcher working with bald eagles and golden eagles cannot be issued a permit for euthanasia by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service due to the “no take clause” in the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Sikes said that this exception means that the IACUCs and, in this case multiple IACUCs, may be needed to approve the research activities with no provisions for euthanasia. Sikes emphasized that the investigators and oversight bodies should comply with the regulations at all times.
In response to questions from workshop participants, Sikes discussed why collecting museum voucher specimens is necessary. In the 1700s, Carl Linnaeus paved the way for modern museum voucher
specimen collection, and since then, DNA extraction has become available to allow samples to be released back into the wild. Even with these developments, Sikes noted that museum voucher specimens are a record not only of the species but also of the time when the museum voucher specimen was collected. Having physical specimens as records for future research can enable scientists to investigate changes in physical features, such as the eggshell thinning data that were important to understanding the effects of exposures to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Additionally, Sikes stated, archive specimens provide information regarding the presence of emerging pathogens and diseases, which DNA alone cannot. Sikes also stated that museum voucher specimens are important for documenting biodiversity, which in turn provides critical information for conservation efforts.
Building on the topic of using different terms such as euthanasia, depopulation, humane slaughter, humane killing, and lethal take, Miller stated that there should be a justified reason for ending an animal’s life. He expanded on the challenges associated with the expectations for veterinarians, as well as how certain words are used and interpreted in the context of wildlife research. For example, the word “humane” is used in different ways, and, as noted by Miller, varies depending on the context. Miller referenced the discussion from Session Eight, where laboratory conditions may not be applicable to the field. He also referenced the work of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, which covers the entire process from beginning to end. While intravenous injection of barbiturate is a preferred method for ending an animal’s life, it does not take into account the stress that animals may experience during pre-injection handling. From Miller’s point of view alternative methods such as firearms may be the best way to end that animal’s life. When the euthanasia guidelines were developed in 2006, according to Miller, they included humane killing. The 2013 version of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia distinguished among slaughter, depopulation, and euthanasia; therefore, researchers have been using these terms and Miller acknowledged that there can be frustration when comparing how people use these terms.
SESSION SEVEN SYNTHESIS: TRANSITION OF WILD ANIMALS TO CAPTIVE SETTINGS AND HOUSING CHALLENGES
Session Chair: Elaine Kim, Colorado State University
Kim summarized the session presentations and highlighted that wildlife researchers act not only as scientists and subject-matter experts but also can act as logistical coordinators and multi-jurisdictional regulatory experts to navigate the complexities of transporting wild animals from the field setting to establishing a captive colony in the laboratory setting. This may be aided by cultivating good rapport and relationships with IACUCs and local, state, federal, and international regulatory bodies. Kim itemized the resources needed to bring wild animals into captivity: facility operations, training of staff and students, veterinary care, animal care, husbandry, social needs, and acclimation. Kim added the speakers noted how bringing wild animals into captivity can cause them permanent stress and how that impacts the work being conducted.
Kim noted that establishing captive colonies is niche work with wild, free-ranging animals that differs from domesticated or purpose-bred species because it involves generating a captive colony that has never experienced the wild. Kim said that it is important for not just the PI but also for responsible groups—institutions, IACUCs, and administrators to support the PI in obtaining wild animals and maintaining them in captivity.
Lacey added that impasses between researchers and IACUCs arise partly due to miscommunication and uninformed or unrealistic expectations. Lacey suggested that researchers and IACUCs need to adjust their expectations and understand it is going to be a process. Kim added that it is important for IACUCs to trust that researchers will train students appropriately, inform the committee as needed, and create the appropriate captive conditions.
Kim also reiterated the difficulty for IACUCs to find the needed expertise to make informed decisions about wildlife research. Romero added that his colleagues in biomedical research have no concept of the extensive time required to obtain needed permits. He pointed to the differences in
obtaining animals for his research, where it is far more expensive than those of his colleagues using traditional, more readily available, purpose-bred laboratory animals. He noted that this is due to a lack of understanding and that education needs to take place. Romero agreed and noted that he joined his IACUC to provide the expertise needed to translate the complexities of wildlife research. Smotherman added that the hardest part can be learning the language and translating unfamiliar terms to colleagues in wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology. He also noted that it can be difficult to find experts willing to serve on an IACUC as the work often goes unrecognized by many institutions. He continued, universities are reticent to recognize the value of service from IACUC members, and consequently it is difficult to get people to put in the time to do this work. Kim agreed and stressed the importance of resource allocation for animal care and use programs, specifically, for IACUC membership. She added that IACUC representation can help to inform and propel wildlife research at the national and international levels. Institutions may also need to consider faculty burnout, lack of mentoring programs, and resource allocation for IACUC membership and recognition, Kim said.
SESSION EIGHT SYNTHESIS: AVAILABLE TAKE-HOME RESOURCES
Session Chair: Ann Maglia, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Maglia gave an overview of the challenges identified in a panel session featuring William Greer, Robert S. Sikes, and Michael Stoskopf. Maglia addressed the challenges that arise from variations in language use and miscommunications among regulators, IACUCs, and wildlife biologists. Maglia also reemphasized the challenges associated with IACUCs finding appropriate expertise to evaluate wildlife protocols. Maglia said the speakers discussed the current state of various animal welfare guidance and how they could apply it to wildlife. Maglia noted that a suggestion was made by the panel to develop local guidance documents and training for how IACUCs could approach wildlife protocols, ensuring that IACUCs understand the importance of flexibility in guidance and that the wildlife guidelines from taxonomic societies exist as resources. Furthermore, Maglia said that the makeup of an institution’s research portfolio influences an IACUC’s perspective; for example, a biomedical-focused institution may need external expertise to guide their IACUC on wildlife protocols. Maglia suggested that more research may be needed to inform welfare guidance for wildlife investigations and mentioned the discussion of challenges, gaps, and incongruences that result because wildlife may fall under the purview of several different agencies and/or regulations.
Maglia concluded with additional challenges, including training for field surgery, issues around trapping and anesthesia, and recognizing that wild animal research is highly diverse and ranges from laboratory experiments to the observation of free-ranging animals.
Sikes expanded on the need for a framework to integrate gaps between guidance documents and wildlife research with the taxonomic guidelines as a resource. Sikes added that the taxon guidelines could be explicitly recognized as go-to resources for institutions that are conducting wildlife research. The taxon guidelines could be referenced similarly to other guidance documents, such as the AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines, and recognized as appropriate IACUC resources by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. It needs to be explicit that IACUCs and oversight bodies use taxonomic guidelines as appropriate resources, which is a critical step, Sikes said.
Sikes provided thoughts on situations where the taxon-specific guidelines do not necessarily align with other guidelines that IACUCs commonly use; for example, the AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines. Sikes said that it is important to remember that these are guidance documents, they are not legislation or laws and cannot cover all possibilities. He suggested that it could be useful to have increased recognition that the AVMA Euthanasia Guidelines does not fit all the expectations and circumstances surrounding wild animals. Similarly, Sikes said, the American Society of Mammalogists’ guidelines could acknowledge that it will not be the definitive source to answer every question when it comes to wild mammals. The structure is set up to charge oversight bodies with evaluating difficult ethical decisions. Different
oversight bodies can review the same information and come to different decisions, but this does not mean that any of them are wrong. Sikes noted that it means that they have wrestled with a difficult ethical dilemma. Sikes said that one needs to apply the most relevant guidance to the situation.
Finally, Sikes addressed a question raised by a workshop participant: Should a field investigator come across an injured or sick animal in the field, what are the appropriate responses? The workshop participant recognized that animals injured because of research activities are the responsibility of the researcher and that a humane death can be the most appropriate action. However, if a field investigator comes across an animal where the injury did not result from the research activities, it is not clear if the expectation is to euthanize the animal. In contrast, others have argued that nature should take its course. Two possible scenarios were discussed: (1) an animal is a crippled carnivore or a deer that is hobbling on three legs; and (2) an animal is an emaciated deer in a location where chronic wasting disease (CWD) occurs. Bryan said that a veterinarian working in that state as a PI can make the call to euthanize the animal. For a biologist or a researcher in this situation, the considerations might be different. According to Bryan, for a PI in the field, who is not a licensed veterinarian in that state, the AUP and the IACUC permit lethal capture, but only for the AUP-designated species; therefore, a problem arises when state regulations allow anyone to put an animal down, but the AUP and approving IACUC do not allow for this option. Depending on the severity of the injury, if it is a prey animal, there may be an inclination to let nature run its course, Bryan said. If it is a carnivore, the decision may be different, he added. IACUCs, when reviewing and approving wildlife AUPs, could be more aware of the regulations in that state. On the other hand, Bryan suggested, the state wildlife agency can create its own IACUC. For the second scenario of the deer in a location with CWD, Bryan noted that he would put the animal down. Sikes closed the Synthesis Session by expressing the importance of planning ahead with an IACUC to address these types of scenarios.