Norway, as the first country in Europe, ratified the European Convention on the Protection of Vertebrates used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes (ETS 123) in 1986. The convention was created for those countries that are part of the Council of Europe; EU member states had already their own EU Directive (86/609/EEC, which was replaced in 2010 by 2010/63/EU). A Norwegian veterinarian, Stian Erichsen at the National Institute of Public Health in Oslo, was head of the committee in Strasbourg in the final stages of the production of the Convention. Stian Erichsen was also active in ICLAS (International Council of Laboratory Animal Science), which as early as the 1960s had produced detailed suggestions for programmes of education and training of laboratory animal caretakers and technicians.
Article 26 in the Convention states that 'Persons who carry out procedures, or take part in procedures, or take care of animals used in procedures, including supervision, shall have had appropriate education and training'.
With this background, an initiative was taken to revise the Norwegian Regulations on Biological Experiments with Animals (Forskriftene om biologiske forsøk med dyr) of 1977. These were replaced on 1 February 1996 by a Regulation on Experiments with Animals (Forskriften om forsøk med dyr). An overview of the most important differences between the old and the new Regulations can be read here. The new Regulation stated (§§6, 12 & 13) that it would be illegal to employ personnel or work at the country's laboratory animal facilities after 1 July 1997 unless requirements laid down by the Ministry of Agriculture were satisfied. This deadline was later extended, in a letter of 13 March 1997 from the Ministry, to 1 July 1998 for researchers, and in a letter of 12 November 1997, to 1 July 1999 for animal technicians.
At approximately the same time, FELASA (Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations) developed guidelines for education and training for alle categories of personnel who work with research animals. At an early stage in this work, FELASA defined four categories of personnel. These categories were used in Norway as follows:
Category A: Animal caretakers
Category B: Animal technicians
Category C: Researchers and Competent Persons*
Category D: Specialists in Laboratory Animal Science (those who have taken a higher academic degree (minimum Master degree or equivalent) within laboratory animal science)
Many researchers, technicians and veterinarians who work with research animals today had to comply with the Ministry's requirements from the 1990s. An overview of these requirements can be downloaded here. The detailed requirements are available in Norwegian here.
*The Norwegian system with Competent Persons was unique. Within certain limits, a named person at an approved research animal facility could process applications for experiments to be performed at that facility. Such work is normally performed by a committee in other countries. This system ceased to operate when Norway implemented the EU Directive 2010/63 in 2015 and passed a new Regulation on the Use of Animals in Research (Forskriften om bruk av dyr i forsøk) which came into force on 1 July 2015.
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