Steps to earning accreditation
How do we apply for accreditation?
First, request an application package from the AAALAC International office or download one from this Web site.
The application package includes:
- A two-page application form. Be sure to provide all requested information.
- Instructions for completing and submitting the Program Description.
- A template that will guide you through the process of preparing your "Program Description." This is the key document used by the Council on Accreditation to evaluate your animal care and use program. The template contains instructions for formatting, typing and mailing, plus a complete list of all of the information you need to include. The Program Description must be submitted in English with the exception of some appendices (see Instructions for Completing and Submitting the Program Description, Section III. Appendices).
- Background materials on AAALAC and the accreditation process. (Be sure to review the "Rules of Accreditation" to make sure that your institution is eligible.)
AAALAC's Three Primary Standards, international guidelines and additional reference resources are available at www.aaalac.org/accreditation/resources.cfm.
What should we include in our Program Description?
Your Program Description will include detailed information on your institution's:
- Animal care and use program management and oversight.
- Animal environment, housing and management.
- Veterinary care.
- Physical plant.
The Program Description template will take you step-by-step through the process of preparing this information. The internal review inherent in the development of your Program Description will help your institution identify and address weaknesses, resulting in improved animal well-being and better science.
What happens after we submit our application package?
You'll receive confirmation from the AAALAC International office that your Program Description has been received. Next, your application undergoes an administrative review to make sure your program meets the criteria listed in the Rules of Accreditation. You will also be asked to submit an application fee which is based on the size of your animal facility.
Next, a site-visit team, made up of two or more AAALAC representatives, is assigned to review your institution's animal care and use program. An AAALAC Council member will contact you to schedule the visit. The AAALAC office will give you the names of the site-visit team members.
What can we expect during the site visit?
Your site visit will start with an "in-briefing," during which key institutional members meet with the site visit team to discuss the accreditation process.
After the in-briefing, the site visit team will sit down with a smaller group from your institution to go over your Program Description. (The team will have thoroughly reviewed your Program Description before the visit.) This gives the team members an opportunity to ask specific questions or request additional documents.
Next, you will take the team on a tour of your facilities. Typically, members of the IACUC (the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) or comparable oversight body are invited to join you at some point to discuss the committee's activities and other issues pertinent to your institution. After the tour, the team may ask you for additional information on specific protocols or procedures.
The site visit team will then meet (alone) to hold an "executive session." During this session, they discuss key observations and information they want to share with you right away.
Finally, an exit briefing is held for all members of your institution who want to attend. During the briefing, the team shares their key findings and what they intend to recommend to the Council regarding your accreditation status. After the visit, they will document their findings and recommendations in an official site visit report.
What happens after the site visit?
The Council on Accreditation makes all final decisions regarding accreditation. The Council meets three times a year (January, May and September), so your application and site-visit report will be considered during the first Council meeting that follows your visit. Prior to the meeting, at least four additional Council members will review and comment on your institution's site visit report.
During the Council deliberations, the Council member who visited your institution will act as your representative, describing your program and sharing his or her observations. Based on the discussions that follow, a letter is drafted that explains your accreditation status. After the Council meeting, the letter is individually reviewed, edited and approved by members of the Council and AAALAC staff. You should receive official notification of your accreditation within four to eight weeks after the Council meeting.
How do we maintain accreditation?
If your institution is awarded AAALAC International accreditation, you will need to submit an "annual report" every year. The report provides current program information, and explains any changes made to your animal care and use program during the previous year. To maintain accreditation, subsequent site visits are held every three years and follow the same process described above.
What if we have more questions?
If you have additional questions about the accreditation process, your application package, your accreditation status, or specific questions related to your program, don't hesitate to contact the AAALAC International office. AAALAC International and its Council members are always available to help you achieve and maintain excellence in your animal care and use programso be sure to utilize these resources!*
*If you are not familiar with the accreditation process, or not sure how your program compares to AAALAC standards, you may choose to first apply for a Program Status Evaluation (PSE) which serves as a "pre accreditation" service. (Visit http://www.aaalac.org/programstatus/index.cfm for more information.)