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Standards of animal housing and care

It is widely recognised that good housing and care for animals is important for scientific as well as animal welfare

and ethical reasons, and many countries have regulations that set out the minimum standards with which

institutions must comply. For example, in the USA, standards of housing and care are described in the Guide

for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (National Research Council 2011). In Europe, binding general and

species-specific requirements for the care and accommodation of animals are set out in Annex III of Directive

2010/63/EU (European Parliament and Council of the European Union 2010). Individual member states may then

develop these into their own national Codes of Practice.

However, understanding of the behaviour and needs of animals is constantly evolving, as is understanding of

how animal welfare can affect science. This means that the provisions set out in such codes and guidelines are

the minimum required at the time they were published. They do not, as sometimes stated, represent the "highest

possible standards", and institutions should always strive to improve upon them.

There is a wealth of published material available on laboratory animal

housing and care, but this is not always easy for non-specialists to interpret.

The RSPCA"s Research Animals Department has produced a series of

guidance notes, in an easy-to-use format, which summarise the scientific

literature and set out good practice for the housing and care of a range of

species commonly used in the laboratory (see sources of further information

at the end of this chapter).

What lay members should expect

The ERB"s role

Institutional ERBs address animal housing and care in a variety of ways. There may be sub-groups of the main

ERB dedicated to housing and care issues, or individual groups of animal care staff or project teams may get

together independently to consider specific housing and care issues. Examples of topics they may address are:

the development of better environmental enrichment for strains of genetically altered mice; challenging perceived

needs to keep animals in barren environments for some types of study; reviewing rodent cage cleaning protocols;

or developing positive reinforcement training of animals to reduce the stress associated with handling and restraint.

These sub-groups will then report their ideas and conclusions to the main ERB for discussion and appropriate


Preparing for animal facility visits

Visiting animal facilities will help in gaining an appreciation

of standards of animal care and welfare and the effects

of procedures. This, in turn, will help to inform prospective

and retrospective project review and the ERB"s wider

functions. It may also be helpful to visit to see things that

arise from ERB discussions (e.g. to help to understand a

husbandry matter or to see a new procedure).


Visiting animal facilities

The day-to-day housing and care of animals has a major impact on their welfare and can also influence the

quality and consistency of scientific data. All ERBs should therefore consider standards of animal housing

and care, and members should be able to visit animal facilities, talk with relevant staff and discuss any

issues that concern them. This chapter presents some points to think about when preparing for and

reflecting on such visits and when discussing animal housing and care more generally.

You may find it helpful to

read the RSPCA Guidance

notes for each species

you will see, before

visiting an animal facility.

If you are a participant in an institutional

ERB you should be invited to visit the

animal facilities on a regular basis, to see

animal housing and care and ideally

procedures taking place. If this is not the

case, you can ask to visit.


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