Lab animal guideline committee must meet publicly
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Nationally recognized scientists and veterinarians selected to produce the National Academy of Science’s “Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals” must meet publicly, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ruled in mid-January.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and two other animal welfare organizations successfully argued that the Guide Committee, which authors scientific guidelines on treatment of laboratory animals, is an advisory committee subject to the openness requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The committee and its predecessors have issued guidelines for treating laboratory animals for more than 40 years. Federal agencies incorporate them into regulations governing treatment of laboratory animals.
The appeals court said that the government utilizes the committee’s work product as was intended by the National Academy of Sciences, a quasi-public entity which created it.
In preparing the latest guide, members first met with the representatives of the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies to hear recommendations for new additions. They also held public forums, but they barred the public from their deliberative meetings in 1993 and 1994.
In May 1994, the animal welfare organizations asked the federal District Court in Washington, D.C., to open the meetings under FACA, but in October 1994, the court refused to do so. However, in February 1995, the appeals court ordered the lower court to decide whether FACA required the meetings to be open even though the group was no longer meeting.
The District Court then ruled that the National Academy of Sciences was not really a “public” corporation and that the guide committee was not managed or controlled by a government agency seeking its conclusions. The animal welfare groups appealed that decision. (Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Shalala; Counsel: Eric Glitzenstein, Washington, D.C.)