Davies, J. R., Purawijaya, D. A., Bartlett, J. M. et al. 2022. Impact of refinements to handling and restraint methods in mice. Animals 12(17), 2173.
There is increasing evidence that, compared to non-aversive handling methods (i.e., tunnel and cupping), tail handling has a negative impact on mouse welfare. Despite this evidence, there are still research organisations that continue to use tail handling. Here, we investigated handling for routine husbandry by three different methods: tail, cupping and tube in a relevant real-world scenario involving mice bred off-site. After transfer to the destination unit, mice were assessed for overt behaviours associated with anxiety and fear. Mice that experienced tail handling were less easy to handle, were more responsive to the box opening, and scored lower in a hand approach test. One barrier to non-tail handling methods is the current practice of restraining mice by the tail for procedures. We therefore next assessed whether a modified method for restraint that takes the animal from cupping to restraint without the use of the tail was associated with better welfare. This refined restraint method reduced overt signs of distress although we did not find any differences in corticosterone levels or anxiety-related behaviours. These findings suggest that avoiding tail handling throughout the animal’s laboratory experience, including during restraint, benefits their welfare.