Laboratory animals are distinguished from other animals by their intended use in research, teaching, or testing and in some cases, because they possess specialized anatomic, genetic, physiologic or metabolic conditions that differ from other members of the same species. While the term “laboratory animals” could potentially include a wide range of wild and domestic species used for food or fiber production or kept as pets, in practice, the term is generally applied to those animals with a defined health and genetic status and usually purpose-bred for their intended uses in research.
Laboratory animal veterinarians are those veterinary professionals who by virtue of interest, experience, and training have specialized in the care of laboratory animals. While basic veterinary education imparts some of these specialized skills and information necessary to care for laboratory animals, the diversity and complexity of the laboratory environment, and the species used within that environment requires additional experience and training. Veterinarians undertaking the practice of laboratory animal medicine may demonstrate their competency by becoming certified by an established group of specialists (also referred to as a college of laboratory animal medicine), which have set forth specific skills and knowledge that each member (diplomate) possesses. Thus, colleges are groups of specialists in veterinary medicine with demonstrated competency in their specialty by training, experience, research, and publication, and a demonstrable knowledge and skill set that allows them to successfully complete an examination process developed and administered by their peers. Independent colleges of laboratory animal medicine exist on a country or a limited regional basis. Each college has members that, in addition to their demonstrated proficiency in laboratory animal medicine, also possess subspecialization in a variety of areas that have direct bearing on the care, use and welfare of laboratory animals.