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Lab Anim. 2002 Oct;36(4):378-95.

Recognizing and assessing pain, suffering and distress in laboratory animals: a survey of current practice in the UK with recommendations.

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Research Animals Department, RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, West Sussex, RH13 9RS, UK.


A survey was undertaken to evaluate how animal pain, suffering and distress are recognized and assessed in UK scientific procedure establishments designated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. A total of 28 institutions were visited between June 1999 and April 2001, within which 137 people were interviewed including scientists, veterinarians and animal technicians. All 28 establishments use clinical observation sheets to assist the recognition of adverse effects, nine use score sheets and seven use computerized data management systems. Clinical signs used as indicators of potential pain, suffering or distress are largely subjective. The survey also addressed protocols and methods for avoiding and alleviating adverse effects, record keeping, review of policies and protocols and issues relating to team work and training. Respondents use a range of techniques for reducing suffering including analgesia, humane endpoints, ensuring competence and refining husbandry. All establishments review projects regularly but few have the time or resources formally to review adverse effects noted in practice and to compare observations with predictions made in licence applications. Training is very consistent between different establishments and most aim to achieve a 'team approach' for monitoring and assessing animals. Results are summarized in the present, abridged paper and set out in full in a report that can be downloaded at 2002). The present paper and the full report, including its recommendations, are intended to provide a source of information, discussion topics and ideas for all establishments that need to monitor animal well-being.

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