AWI Launches Laboratory Animal Forum

The Animal Welfare Institute initiated a closed, electronic forum on Laboratory Animal Refinement & Enrichment in October 2002. The purpose of this discussion group is the factual exchange of experiences about ways to improve the conditions under which laboratory animals are housed and handled. The group is intended to serve the international animal care community in its attempt to promote animal welfare and improve scientific methodology by avoiding or eliminating husbandry-related stress situations. The forum is open to animal care personnel, animal technicians, students, attending veterinarians, and researchers who have first-hand experience in the care of animals kept in laboratories.

Presently the forum has over 100 members from 15 different countries. If you want to join please send your name, professional affiliation, experience(s) and interest(s) to viktorawi@siskiyou.net.

The following is part of a discussion by participants in the forum in response to the question: Should animal care personnel be encouraged to establish affectionate, rather than neutral, relationships with the animals in their charge? Erik Moreau, McGill University, Canada; Kathy Clark, Holliston, Massachusetts; Deborah Hartley, University of Oklahoma; Ann Lablans, Queen's University, Canada; Augusto Vitale, Instituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy; Pascalle Van Loo, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Terri Hunnicutt, St. Louis Zoo, Missouri; Anna Olsson, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, Portugal; Chris Sherwin, University of Bristol, England; Viktor Reinhardt, Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC; all posted opinions, which were edited by Viktor Reinhardt, moderator of LAREF, for publication in the Laboratory Primate Newsletter (2003, 42[1], 14-15). The text below has been shortened because of space limitations.

Most correspondents agreed that development of an affectionate relationship with the animals in their charge is almost unavoidable (Clark, Hartley, Hunnicutt, Lablans, Moreau, Van Loo, Vitale). Empathy can even arise in researchers who go to great lengths to try to ensure that their data are objective (Sherwin). "Having a close relationship with your animals is necessary to regard them as living beings, rather than biological test tubes. As such, you are more careful and patient, and will think more about what the procedures mean to the animals. You will become more creative in finding animal-friendly alternatives for the procedures you need to do on the animals. You will thus increase the well-being of your animals and, by doing so, make them better research subjects and increase the validity of test results" (Van Loo).

There was a consensus that emotional attachment provides an assurance that the animals receive optimal care, both physically and behaviorally (Clark, Hartley, Van Loo, Vitale). "If I didn't think about the animals in my care, I wouldn't notice that someone seems a little off today, he's not participating in social activities like he normally does. I wouldn't notice that one animal suddenly flinches when I feed her something with a spoon, indicating a possible tooth problem. I've seen 'caregivers' that treat the animals with complete indifference miss a million details that they should have noticed. They don't clean well, are callous to the animals, and forget important things. I have watched animals cringe or cower when these individuals enter the room. I have seen these individuals breaking for lunch rather than take a few extra minutes for enrichment. Their emotions may not be absent from the situation, but they're focused somewhere else and so they don't do a good job since they aren't emotionally vested in the outcome" (Hunnicutt). A relationship based on trust rather than fear is particularly important when potentially dangerous animals such as macaques are being trained to actively cooperate during handling procedures (Lablans, Moreau). "Whether such a relationship enhances training success is another question, but it certainly is an effective safeguard against injuries resulting from defensive aggression" (Reinhardt).

The Animal Welfare Institute initiated a closed, electronic forum on Laboratory Animal Refinement & Enrichment in October 2002. The purpose of this discussion group is the factual exchange of experiences about ways to improve the conditions under which laboratory animals are housed and handled. The group is intended to serve the international animal care community in its attempt to promote animal welfare and improve scientific methodology by avoiding or eliminating husbandry-related stress situations. The forum is open to animal care personnel, animal technicians, students, attending veterinarians, and researchers who have first-hand experience in the care of animals kept in laboratories.

Presently the forum has over 100 members from 15 different countries. If you want to join please send your name, professional affiliation, experience(s) and interest(s) to viktorawi@siskiyou.net.

The following is part of a discussion by participants in the forum in response to the question: Should animal care personnel be encouraged to establish affectionate, rather than neutral, relationships with the animals in their charge? Erik Moreau, McGill University, Canada; Kathy Clark, Holliston, Massachusetts; Deborah Hartley, University of Oklahoma; Ann Lablans, Queen's University, Canada; Augusto Vitale, Instituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy; Pascalle Van Loo, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Terri Hunnicutt, St. Louis Zoo, Missouri; Anna Olsson, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, Portugal; Chris Sherwin, University of Bristol, England; Viktor Reinhardt, Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC; all posted opinions, which were edited by Viktor Reinhardt, moderator of LAREF, for publication in the Laboratory Primate Newsletter (2003, 42[1], 14-15). The text below has been shortened because of space limitations.

Most correspondents agreed that development of an affectionate relationship with the animals in their charge is almost unavoidable (Clark, Hartley, Hunnicutt, Lablans, Moreau, Van Loo, Vitale). Empathy can even arise in researchers who go to great lengths to try to ensure that their data are objective (Sherwin). "Having a close relationship with your animals is necessary to regard them as living beings, rather than biological test tubes. As such, you are more careful and patient, and will think more about what the procedures mean to the animals. You will become more creative in finding animal-friendly alternatives for the procedures you need to do on the animals. You will thus increase the well-being of your animals and, by doing so, make them better research subjects and increase the validity of test results" (Van Loo).

There was a consensus that emotional attachment provides an assurance that the animals receive optimal care, both physically and behaviorally (Clark, Hartley, Van Loo, Vitale). "If I didn't think about the animals in my care, I wouldn't notice that someone seems a little off today, he's not participating in social activities like he normally does. I wouldn't notice that one animal suddenly flinches when I feed her something with a spoon, indicating a possible tooth problem. I've seen 'caregivers' that treat the animals with complete indifference miss a million details that they should have noticed. They don't clean well, are callous to the animals, and forget important things. I have watched animals cringe or cower when these individuals enter the room. I have seen these individuals breaking for lunch rather than take a few extra minutes for enrichment. Their emotions may not be absent from the situation, but they're focused somewhere else and so they don't do a good job since they aren't emotionally vested in the outcome" (Hunnicutt). A relationship based on trust rather than fear is particularly important when potentially dangerous animals such as macaques are being trained to actively cooperate during handling procedures (Lablans, Moreau). "Whether such a relationship enhances training success is another question, but it certainly is an effective safeguard against injuries resulting from defensive aggression" (Reinhardt).

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