Assessing animals

Initial assessments

In order to recognise any pain, distress and suffering, we need to recognise the positive signs of health and good welfare in the animals that we work with.

An initial assessment of any animal by first observing it in its home cage or pen, without disturbing it, often provides useful information. Once disturbed, some animals may no longer show some signs of distress or ill-health.


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Some animals will be relatively inactive during our normal working day, for example rats are much more active at night.

The rats in this room are on a reversed light cycle and are being housed under red-light conditions during our “day”. This allows us to simulate night during which the animals are more active and can be monitored more easily.

Minimising disturbance

Some animals may react to your presence by stopping moving, or hiding.

In these circumstances, either effort must be made to familiarise the animals with people, or observations can be made using a remote video camera system. Rabbits and guinea pigs will often stop moving when an observer enters the room.

Animal examination

Looking at each body area, in turn, can help you to assess an animal correctly. Comparing animals side by side can often assist you when looking for signs of poor welfare. Often we need more information about animals and we can get this from the study protocol. Looking at each body area, in turn, can help you to assess an animal correctly. We can then decide what other actions we should take. In the UK, the required information can be found in the “adverse effects” section of the appropriate protocol on the project licence.

Next Article : Recording and scoring animals

Updated on 12th May 2020

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