ACNP Statement of Principles
on the Ethical Use and Care of Animals
for Research, Testing and Education
in Neuropsychopharmacology


This Statement of Principles is intended to serve as an ethical guide for neuropsychopharmacologic research and education using animals, performed by the members of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP). The mission statement of the ACNP states that the ACNP is to further research and educate in neuropsychopharmacology by promoting the interaction of scientific disciplines studying brain and behavior in order to advance the prevention and treatment of neuropsychiatric illnesses, including behavioral and addictive disorders. The humane care of animals involved in research is critical and essential for accomplishing this function.

The intent of animal-based research in neuropsychopharmacology is to contribute to the development of treatments for devasting psychiatric and neurological disorders, the improvement of health, and the reduction of suffering in both people and animals. One could question the rationale for use of animals for these purposes since none of the major human brain or behavioral disorders is reproduced fully in animals. Animals have behavioral disorders that somewhat resemble human illnesses, but illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions that affect higher thought processes that are not readily characterized in animals. Never the less, animal models of brain and nerve cell function have played critical roles in the development of treatments for all of these illnesses.

For many human illnesses (e.g. cancer), the affected organ can be examined directly. Most organs can be probed, biopsied, and excised for treatment and study. In general, the brain cannot be examined directly during life, except for rare instances during neurosurgical procedures. For most behavioral disorders, there is no clearly abnormal part of the brain that can be removed and studied. Indeed, current views are that these disorders represent altered functioning of circuits involving multiple parts of the brain and different neurotransmitters in such areas. Although, non-invasive imaging techniques to study brain function in humans continue to evolve, they have important limitations. Thus, animal models are critical for developing our understanding of how normal brain function is altered to produce psychiatric disorders and distress as well as to the development and testing to new approaches to treatment.

Humane use requires us to consider the animals’ well-being in all phases of study and to minimize pain and distress to the extent possible for scientifically sound research. It is these considerations that have led to this Statement of Principles, which provides a consensus to guide the achievement of these ethical goals.


In the U.S., the Animal Welfare Act Regulations and the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals govern research and training involving animals. This Statement of Principles conforms to the standards set forth in those documents and it applies to all neuropsychopharmacology research on experimental animals. These principles should be followed in all educational and research activities of ACNP’s membership that involve research animals. They affirm consideration of risks versus benefits, avoidance of unnecessary pain or disabling long-term effects, minimizing the number of animals used without compromising value of the research, and evaluation of potential benefits to society. Following many, if not all, of the following principles is mandatory in academic and industrial settings under the supervision and oversight of local institutional animal care and use committees.

PRINCIPLE 1: Acquisition of Animals

Acquisition of animals must be according to federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

PRINCIPLE 2: Housing and Care of Animals

Housing and care of animals should be according to humane principles, under the supervision of qualified individuals, and appropriate to the needs of the species.

PRINCIPLE 3: Institutional Review of Research Protocols

All animal research protocols and amendments to those protocols must be approved by an institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) before they are implemented, and progress and adherence to institutional research guidelines must be monitored.

PRINCIPLE 4: Justification for Choice of Species

Full justification for the choice of species must be made for each particular research problem.

PRINCIPLE 5: Consideration of Alternatives to Animals

Alternatives to animals (e.g., in vitro techniques and computer simulations) should be considered and adopted, if appropriate, to answering the research question. Often such procedures (particularly in vitro methods) are used as adjuncts to studies with live animals.

PRINCIPLE 6: Number of Animals to Be Used

The minimum number of animals, consistent with obtaining scientifically valid results, should be used. To assure this, the investigator must have an excellent understanding of experimental designs and statistical analysis.

PRINCIPLE 7: Avoidance of Duplication

The research should not needlessly duplicate prior research efforts. Thus, researchers should remain in good contact with the evolving scientific literature. While some replication of earlier findings may be necessary to advance understanding of a particular research question, experiments should be designed to increase knowledge without resorting to unnecessary duplication.

PRINCIPLE 8: Humane Procedures

Planning of research must include protecting animals from avoidable stress, discomfort, or pain, and appropriate anesthetic and/or analgesic precautions should be used. In the event that stress, discomfort, or pain cannot be prevented and achieve the purposes of the research, clear justification must be provided.

PRINCIPLE 9: Training of Personnel

All personnel involved in research on animals must undergo appropriate education and training in handling and use of the species to be used prior to the conduct of research; and trainees should be supervised by more experienced personnel in the conduct of research procedures.

PRINCIPLE 10: Responsibilities of the Scientific Investigator

The scientific investigator engaged in neuropsychopharmacologic research with experimental animals should adhere to all of the above principles and should ensure all persons participating in the research study observe these principles.

Publications of scientific investigations with animals must include a statement of compliance with guidelines and regulations; responsibility for the inclusion and accuracy of this statement lies with the authors of the publication, reviewers of the publication, and journal editors.

Investigators should be well acquainted with all governmental regulations and policies related to their research involving animals.

Last, but not least, all living experimental animal subjects should be treated with respect and care during all phases of the research study.


  1. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (8th Edition), Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, National Research Council, The National Academies Press, Washington D.C. 2011.
  2. Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of of Laboratory Animals. Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW), National Institutes of Health. Printed copy includes the Health Research Extension Act of 1985, Public Law 99-158, November 20, 1985, “Animals in Research” and the U.S. Government Principles for the Utilization and Care of Vertebrate Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training.
  3. Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, 9 C.F.R., Parts 1-4. Printed publication available from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture. See also the APHIS Policy Manual, which provides interpretation of the regulations.