Doctor Harry Rowsell

Dr. Harry Rowsell

Evolution of the CCAC

The 1950s and 1960s were a period of phenomenal growth in Canadian research, particularly in biomedical sciences. This period also witnessed a growing public concern over the use of animals in research. Within this new climate, the scientific community became increasingly aware that this was a sensitive issue and raised serious ethical questions, not the least of which was responsibility for animal ethics and care.

In 1963, the Medical Research Council (MRC) decided the matter warranted further study, and the following year it requested that the National Research Council (NRC) establish a committee to investigate the care and use of experimental animals in Canada. The report of the Special Committee on the Care of Experimental Animals (1966) recommended the creation of a voluntary control program exercised by scientists in each institution, subject to peer judgment and committed to implementing the guiding principles of an independent advisory body.

A feasibility study of these proposals was undertaken (Rowsell, 1967) and, as a result, all universities and government departments where animals were used agreed to support the formation of a Canadian Council on Animal Care (Anon., 1967).

The CCAC was established in 1968 as a standing committee of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) [now known as Universities Canada] until its incorporation as an independent, non-profit organization in 1982.

Dr. Harry Rowsell was the first Executive Director of the new Canadian Council on Animal Care, a position he held for 25 years. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his immeasurable contribution to the establishment of ethically-based animal research, spearheaded by the CCAC.

The CCAC Today

Since 1968, the CCAC program has brought about high standards of animal ethics and care in science. We develop standards based on expert peer advice and current interpretation of scientific evidence, which incorporate the values of Canadians, as well as strategies to reduce the numbers of, and the harm and distress to, animals in science. We also assess and certify institutions working with animals for scientific purposes and ensure that they meet CCAC standards. It is through these efforts that the CCAC promotes awareness, understanding, and sensitivity to animal ethics and care in Canadian science.