Mantz, M., Pugerud, A. 2024. Overcoming the hurdles of lab animal enrichment: Natural behaviors vs. scientific need. Laboratory Animal Science Professional 12(1) (January/February), 32-34.

The Animal Resources Core (ARC) at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute (AWRI) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) faces many of the same challenges other institutions manage in terms of enrichment for laboratory animals. A Behavior Assessment Team (BAT) was developed to mitigate some of these challenges in the ARC. The BAT assesses, manages, and treats behavioral concerns for all species by providing adequate enrichment without impeding research outcomes. This article discusses enrichment strategies used at ARC for aquatics, rodents, chinchillas, rabbits, pigs, and ruminants. Although scientific data has not been collected regarding improvements, since the BAT was established in 2019 the ARC has seen anecdotal evidence of improvements in rodents showing abnormal behaviors receiving wheels and alternative foraging materials. Our large animal colonies appear more relaxed and compliant due to the intensive socialization program. In addition, animals that require intensive care (ICU) after surgery are acclimated to various ICU activities 1-2 weeks prior to surgery. We have observed noticeable improvements in stress levels after surgery and animal recovery outcomes. The chinchilla colonies have shown increased activity levels and conspecific behaviors with their new caging.