Sposato, M. 2013. Benefits of an enhanced enrichment program for a canine research colony. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 669 (Abstract #P176).
The overall benefits of an enrichment and exercise program for research canines has been well documented and is a required element, by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), of any institution’s Animal Care and Use Program. However, some research animals which are sent out for adoption after being released from a research program can show signs of various social and adjustment issues after being bred and raised in a laboratory setting. These differences from “normal” behavior indicate an underlying level of stress that may have an impact on multiple baseline physiologic parameters in these animals. By adding additional enrichment aspects to our Canine Exercise and Enrichment Program we have seen valuable changes in the overall behavior and physiologic stability of our canines, which are valuable for the preclinical modeling work done with these animals. We also anticipate that this will translate into the animal’s ability to adjust faster and more effectively to the various new aspects of life outside the laboratory environment. In order to enhance the overall care, wellbeing, and stability of our canine colony we house them socially in pairs and in large runs that are 3 times the standard size required per animal. Our housing also includes added elements such as raised canvas beds, soothing environmental background noise, and chew toys. We have also added training aspects to our program which includes using puzzle toys for mental stimulation, “hunting game” and digging for olfactory stimulation, stair training, grass mat for bathroom training, as well as basic leash and behavioral commands. These elements are all in addition to the standard requirements of exercise and human interaction with staff. The addition of these aspects into the daily program and care of our canine colony has resulted in a group of healthy well-behaved animals that can more reliably represent normal physiology, and therefore, more precisely model the disease state