Hawkins, P. 2014. Refining housing, husbandry and care for animals used in studies involving biotelemetry. Animals 4(2), 361-373.
Biotelemetry can contribute towards reducing animal numbers and suffering in disciplines including physiology, pharmacology and behavioural research. However, the technique can also cause harm to animals, making biotelemetry a ‘refinement that needs refining’. Current welfare issues relating to the housing and husbandry of animals used in biotelemetry studies are single vs. group housing, provision of environmental enrichment, long term laboratory housing and use of telemetered data to help assess welfare. Animals may be singly housed because more than one device transmits on the same wavelength; due to concerns regarding damage to surgical sites; because they are wearing exteriorised jackets; or if monitoring systems can only record from individually housed animals. Much of this can be overcome by thoughtful experimental design and surgery refinements. Similarly, if biotelemetry studies preclude certain enrichment items, husbandry refinement protocols can be adapted to permit some environmental stimulation. Nevertheless, long-term laboratory housing raises welfare concerns and maximum durations should be defined. Telemetered data can be used to help assess welfare, helping to determine endpoints and refine future studies. The above measures will help to improve data quality as well as welfare, because experimental confounds due to physiological and psychological stress will be minimised.