From alpacas to amphibians – life in Trent’s Animal Care department can never be described as dull as the team strives to provide the best standard of care for these critters.
“We have staff and students on site seven days a week,” says Jason Allen, manager of Animal Care at Trent. “Although much of the work being done is routine, such as cleaning and feeding, we are constantly adapting to offer a level of care that provides our animals with enrichment and an environment that mimics their natural habitat.”
The broader Trent community is familiar with the department’s two alpacas, Mac and Hollister, who recently retired, but Animal Care is typically home to around 100 mice, 300 rats, and resident Zebra Finches, fish, frogs and salamanders, to name a few.
Building on Trent’s legacy of best practice
Mr. Allen started working part-time in Animal Care as a Biology and Environmental Sciences student, and has been a full-time staff member for 21 years, first as a technician and now as manager. During this time he has seen the ethics and care of animals in science continuously improving through constant evaluation of best practices. With a commitment to providing Trent’s animals with the best possible care and enrichment, the implementation of industry best practice is almost second nature in the Animal Care department, resulting in transparent operations and open communication about their day-to-day activities.
“We are all connected here at Trent, and we want our broader community to be aware of the work we do and feel confident in knowing that animal science is highly regulated,” Mr. Allen says. “Trent University has been a part of the Canadian Council on Animal Care Assessment and Certification program since the organization’s inception in 1968 and also maintains certifications and memberships with the Canadian Association for Lab Animal Science.”
Mr. Allen explains that the Canadian Council on Animal Care Assessment process is quite a comprehensive audit, with preparations taking up to a year. The department is also subject to surprise inspections by the province and inspections by its internal governing body, the Animal Care Committee.
The Animal Care Committee is a stakeholder group comprising staff, faculty, students, technicians, and an external veterinarian, and is responsible for approving all protocols relating to animals used in science at Trent.
“Most of the animal research being conducted at Trent is behaviour-based or fundamental biology research for which alternative research methods are not currently available,” says Mr. Allen, who goes on to give an example of neuroscience research with rats, explaining that the functioning of our brains is so complex that it simply cannot be mimicked by computer modeling.
“Our practices are guided by the three Rs for animals used in science – replacing or avoiding animals in science; reducing the number of animals in science and refining care and procedures to minimize pain and distress.”
Introducing Trent’s new resident alpacas
With Mac and Hollister now enjoying their retirement at Riverview Park & Zoo, two new alpacas, Ozark or “Ozzie” and Goose have joined the Trent community. Like Mac and Hollister, the new pair will be contributing to impactful antibody research conducted in partnership with Talaria Antibodies Inc.
“The new pair will be involved in new antibody research work with Talaria,” says Mr. Allen, stating that the research team has a close bond with these animals. “They frequently requested updates on how Mac and Hollister were doing and we are happy to continue this fantastic research partnership with Talaria and our two new alpacas, Goose and Ozzie.”
The two new alpacas are still a bit shy, and the Animal Care team is working on socializing and training the boys as they continue to adjust to their new home at Trent.
“We plan to take them for walks around campus and welcome visitors to come and meet them when they are in pasture or out for a walk,” says Mr. Allen, reminding the Trent community not to feed the animals and to ask their handlers before approaching.
Interested in updates on the animals in Trent’s care? Follow the Animal Care department on Instagram.