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We spend $6 billion on athletic shoes a year. The National Cancer Institute spent $2.4 billion in 1997 trying to find a cure for cancer.

Laboratory animal technicians are specially trained to care for the animals used in laboratory research. By using animals in research, scientists learn important information about diseases that affect our pets and us.
The laboratory animal technician has a very special job in caring for the animals used in biomedical research. They are responsible for feeding the animals, cleaning their housing, monitoring each animal’s overall health and providing basic care – giving medicine, exercise and assisting other employees.
Lab animal technicians have a basic knowledge of the needs and behaviors of animals. They play an important role before and after a scientific experiment. The technician will be involved with the planning stages of an experiment to help determine the care an animal will need before, during and after a procedure. The technician is also involved in the analysis or study of the research data following an experiment.
To learn more about the profession, read the following story from another AALAS member, Daniela B.

As a child, Daniela wasn’t aware of the profession of lab animal science, but helped a local veterinarian that made house calls.
"He stitched up my dog on our hallway floor once," she exclaims. "He was the best veterinarian I have ever met. He always had a solution to every problem and he had that ‘special’ way with animals."
Daniela moved from Germany to the United States after her marriage. She volunteered in the veterinary clinic for the Red Cross and got her first job involved with animals. She soon started a paying job with the clinic.
Soon after, she saw an ad in the paper for working with animals, good pay and benefits. And she became a lab animal technician. After years of working with laboratory animals, Daniela says she is proud of her job and the work she’s done.
"I am proud of what I am doing," she said. "I feel like we are a big family working for the same cause and purpose. It all starts with us – the animal technician. We are the foundation for all the research. The animals’ health and well being are directly in our hands. We are part of a profession that works toward finding cures and diseases to help people and make them well. That is something to be proud of – and I am!"

Laboratory animal technicians can become certified by AALAS, according to years involved in the career and a testing process. The educational process ensures that technicians remain on the cutting edge of their field. AALAS also offers a continuing education Registry to keep technicians current in the field.

Another professional who has hands-on experience dealing with animals in the research environment is a veterinarian. From inspectors to surgeons, veterinarians are involved daily in research projects.
Some veterinarians provide daily medical care to animals involved in research; others provide their expertise to improve surgical techniques for humans and animals. A number of veterinarians work for government agencies, universities or corporations. The vets perform a variety of jobs, ranging from management to product development and research.
Another extremely important job is concerned with the humane care and treatment of laboratory animals. Through the United States Department of Agriculture, these doctors visit research laboratories and ensure the animals are being treated according to federal law.
Interested in becoming a veterinary researcher?
About 17 percent of U.S. veterinarians work either in the public or corporate worlds, although not all of these are researchers. Many hold positions in management, sales, marketing and other areas of animal-related companies – such as pharmaceutical industries and pet-food manufacturers.
In coming years, emphasis on scientific methods of breeding and raising livestock, poultry and fish should contribute to a demand for veterinary researchers, as will continued support for public health and disease control programs.
In government, veterinarians may be researchers for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. They can work for public health agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service. In private industry, they develop, test and produce antibiotics and other products for humans and animals. Still others are teachers at veterinary and human medical schools.
Often, veterinary researchers pursue a relatively narrow area of specialization. In many instances, education beyond a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree is required. Many veterinary researchers and teachers have a doctorate or masters in an appropriate field. As of December 2006, 687 veterinarians were certified as specialist in laboratory animal medicine through the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM).
What’s the most challenging part of the job? Veterinarians say the most challenging part of their job is the vast amount of knowledge required to have at their fingertips. Scientists have to understand the root level of a disease – from its cause to the way it interacts with cells.
Becoming a veterinarian is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of dedication. It takes years of education and they are required to process a vast amount of knowledge. But through hard work, you can be successful as a veterinarian.

Virtually every medical advance of the last century has been made using animals in research. The people who discover these cures and treatments – who perform tests and solve the puzzles of human and animal illnesses – are research scientists.
Medical breakthroughs often require years of dedicated study. The research scientists of the 20th century have been responsible for cures and treatments for a variety of medical problems – from polio to organ transplants.
Research scientists have many different backgrounds -- from veterinarian researchers to pathologists and animal behavior scientists. They have inquiring minds and a deep commitment to providing answers to a number of puzzling disease problems.
Researchers are committed to human and animal health. They are responsible for planning the experiments to be done on animals and ensuring the animals are not in pain. Researchers are responsible for obeying the protocol set up by the federal government. 

Engineering professionals are also involved in laboratory animal science. These experts design housing that meets federal guidelines. Genetic engineers work to produce specific strains of animals needed for research. Through the Animal Welfare Act, the federal government provides strict guidelines for housing and transportation needs of laboratory animals. Experts in housing animals provide the most spacious living quarters possible for the variety of animals used in research.
Animal behaviorists study animals to collect data on their behavior in captivity. Some help rehabilitate animals from zoos, exhibits or research facilities. Behaviorists also provide an important role in research, by discovering enrichment and housing methods to keep animals healthy and keep their stress levels low.

Animal facility inspectors are employed by the federal government to ensure that animals are receiving humane care and treatment and that the facility is in compliance with federal regulations and guidelines.

What are the ‘jobs’ that animals fulfill in our lives today? They are involved in research so we can find new good effective medicines and surgical techniques. They are an excellent source of food utilizing many of the Earth’s regions that cannot support farming. They provide service to many handicapped persons who could not live independently without their service animals. And they provide companionship to all of us lonely humans. This companionship is especially important to the elderly and confined where pet ownership markedly improves both lifespan and quality of life.

AALAS has developed a videotape and curriculum about careers available in laboratory animal science. To learn more about careers in this field and for information on ordering the video, please contact AALAS at 901-754-8620 or visit us at our website www.aalas.org .




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Donít people choose careers in medical research using animals because it is an easy way to receive funding dollars and make high salaries?
No. Most researchers could make more money in other careers. People choose to go into research because they want to find answers to complicated questions. Animal research is often a vital step in finding the answers. more...