Nunamaker, E. A., Davis, S., O’Malley, C. I. et al. 2021. Developing recommendations for cumulative endpoints and lifetime use for research animals. Animals 11(7), 2031.
Research animals are important for scientific advancement, and therefore, their long-term welfare needs to be monitored to not only minimize suffering, but to provide positive affective states and experiences. Currently, there is limited guidance in countries around the world on cumulative and experimental endpoints. This paper aims to explore current opinions and institutional strategies regarding cumulative use and endpoints through a scoping survey and review of current regulations and welfare assessment tools, and ultimately to provide recommendations for assessment of cumulative and lifetime use of research animals. The survey found that only 36% of respondents indicated that their institution had cumulative use endpoint policies in place, but these policies may be informal and/or vary by species. Most respondents supported more specific guidelines but expressed concerns about formal policies that may limit their ability to make case-by-case decisions. The wide diversity in how research animals are used makes it difficult for specific policies to be implemented. Endpoint decisions should be made in an objective manner using standardized welfare assessment tools. Future research should focus on robust, efficient welfare assessment tools that can be used to support planning and recommendations for cumulative endpoints and lifetime use of research and teaching animals.