Veterinary clinical research

Clinical trials

Policy type: Policy
Reference: 14a
Status: Current
Date ratified: November 2019


The New Zealand Veterinary Association supports veterinarians to undertake clinical research, provided all relevant professional and regulatory requirements are satisfied. Clinical research conducted by veterinarians should conform to the same rigorous standards as would be expected by an animal ethics committee.


Use of animals for research, testing, and teaching (RTT) is strictly controlled under Part 6 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and typically a code of ethical conduct (Animal Ethics Committee approval) is required to undertake RTT. However, some manipulations carried out in the immediate care of a veterinarian are excluded from the definition of RTT given under Section 5 (and therefore may not require Animal Ethics Committee approval).

Veterinarians and animal owners obtain clinical information from many sources which have differing levels of credibility, ranging from peer-reviewed publications and reports from registrants of restricted veterinary medicines (RVMs) through to anecdotal claims of efficacy.

Clinical veterinary decision-making is made easier where there is a large body of supporting evidence of efficacy, but a cautious approach is justified for new interventions and those without supporting data.

Veterinarians understand efficacy reports may be biased towards the best trial results; negative results are seldom reported; and that adverse effects may only become evident when used more widely in clinical practice. In some instances, veterinary medicines or husbandry interventions may not have been evaluated under the local environmental conditions and husbandry practices pertinent to animals/properties in a specific area.

Veterinarians are encouraged to consider undertaking clinical research as a valuable means of discovering information which may not yet be known and/or understood. As the foundation of evidence-based medicine, the most common indication for veterinarians to conduct clinical research is to evaluate the efficacy or benefit of a particular veterinary medicine or husbandry procedure.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) expects clinical research conducted by veterinarians to conform to the same rigorous standards as would be expected by an animal ethics committee. A useful benchmark would be to ensure that the research will deliver results suitable for publication. This requires careful consideration of research design, objectives, materials and methods, and analysis.

All research undertaken by veterinarians must comply with all relevant statute including (but not limited to) the Animal Welfare Act 1999, associated Codes of Welfare and Regulations; the Biosecurity Act 1993; the Privacy Act 1993; and the Veterinarians Act 2005.

Veterinarians must also comply with all professional standards expected under the Veterinary Council of New Zealand’s Code of Professional Conduct.


  1. Veterinarians considering clinical research should carefully review and understand their requirements under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 prior to taking any action.
  2. Veterinarians seeking to undertake clinical research should first review relevant literature to demonstrate there is a need to perform the research (i.e. there is a current gap in knowledge and/or understanding).
  3. Where veterinarians are seeking to publish the research findings, they should first consult the instructions/requirements of the relevant journal/publisher to ensure the proposed research design (including any ethics approval requirement) will allow the resulting manuscript to be considered for publication.
  4. Where it is unclear whether the proposed research requires an Animal Ethics Committee approval, veterinarians should make rigorous enquiry and ensure clarity before proceeding.
  5. Irrespective of whether an Animal Ethics Committee approval is required, the design and conduct of the research should be robust to ensure the data obtained will be valid and able to be interpreted.
  6. It is unacceptable to undertake research that cannot provide valid results (e.g. will withstand peer review) due to faulty research design.
  7. Veterinarians designing any clinical research project are strongly advised to seek the guidance of a colleague who is competent to advise on elements of research design such as power analysis, statistical analysis and interpretation of results.
  8. Veterinarians should aim to share research findings with colleagues, where appropriate, to advance the veterinary profession and improve welfare outcomes for animals.
  9. Where veterinarians are sharing research findings, any claims must comply with all relevant statute.


  1. The Animal Welfare Act 1999
  2. The Veterinary Council of New Zealand’s Code of Professional Conduct.