Kansas University was part of an effort by academic medical centers across the country to successfully lobby for a halt to new federal regulations that would have required researchers to describe in greater detail experiments involving mice, rats and birds.
Small rodents and birds are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act, which sets down standards for treatment of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and other animals in research.
Other laws and regulations, however, do set minimal standards for the care of rats, mice and birds.
KU's participation was encouraged by three national organizations that represent the nation's colleges and universities.
The most successful of those lobbying was the University of Mississippi, which gained the support of Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Ways and Means subcommittee overseeing the Department of Agriculture, which writes and administers animal research regulations.
Cochran inserted a ban on funding for the new regulations for one year in the Agriculture Department budget, which awaits President Clinton's signature.
"We contacted our members and asked them to contact members of Congress," said Tony Mazzaschi, assistant vice president for research of the Association of American Medical Colleges, one the organizations coordinating medical school efforts nationwide.
"Our members made the difference," Mazzaschi said. "Frankly this wasn't a hard sell to Congress. You explain the situation to them and they understand."
The Agriculture Department announced earlier this month that it would prepare the new regulations to settle a lawsuit brought by Alternatives Research and Development Foundation, the scientific affiliate of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, which opposes the use of animals in research.
"The hysteria that it's going to stop research in its tracks is ridiculous," said Tina Nelson, executive director of the Anti-Vivisection Society.
But some organizations have said it may increase research costs between $80 million and $200 million nationwide.
KU, like most universities, now reports how many mice, rats and birds are used each year to the Department of Agriculture. KU also reports if the animals are subjected to pain and whether the pain was treated.
"They're already doing the reporting," Nelson said. "There would be very little else they have to do."
David Pinson, associate director of lab animal resources at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., estimates regulatory compliance costs the medical center at least $32,000 a year.
He said the regulations likely would require additional paperwork describing the procedures in which the rats, mice and birds are used.
"Any drug in the pipeline has to do a toxicology study to know if that drug is going to kill somebody," Pinson said. "Trust me. You want to know that."
The Medical Center is preparing a detailed study of its costs associated with regulatory compliance. The National Institutes of Health will cover those costs associated with research it is funding, Pinson said.
At the Lawrence campus, the effect of a possible rules change is expected to be negligible.
"It would be a big deal if it was an organization that had never done any reporting before," said Todd Cohen, assistant director of university relations. "But, for us, there will be no effect."