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Animals Used in Science

Understanding Animal Use

How is Animal-Based Science Conducted in Canada?

Before scientists can officially begin using any animals, they must first submit a detailed description of their proposed work to their institutional animal care committee for a thorough review and approval.

Members of these animal care committees must act as a strong and visible advocate for the ethical care of the animals and ensure that reasonable safeguards are in place to ensure animal welfare.

Together, these individuals, in collaboration with animal health professionals, work to ensure that the following steps are taken in order to meet the CCAC’s standards of ethical animal care and use.

Focusing on Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement

Petri dish with pipette

In CCAC-certified institutions, scientists must adhere to the Three Rs principle when planning any animal-based procedure or experiment. In 1959, scientists W.M.S. Russell and R.L. Burch first proposed the concept of the Three Rs in their book The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique. The Three Rs is now a widely accepted cornerstone of animal-based science within Canada and around the world, and promotes the following three tenets:

  • Replacement: Avoid or replace the use of animals wherever possible;
  • Reduction: Employ strategies that will result in fewer animals used and are consistent with sound experimental design; and
  • Refinement: Modify husbandry or experimental procedures to minimize pain and distress.

Enriching the Environment

Two mice playing in a glass

Environmental enrichment is another key component of animal care as it contributes to overall quality of life. Animal care providers are responsible for creating an environment that allows the animal to perform as many of its natural behaviours as possible. This covers a wide range of features, from improvements to the physical environment to changes in social opportunities.

In the image, a glass or plastic cylinder provides variation in the environment for a mouse in a cage and is often used by the mouse as a nesting spot or hiding area.

Providing Extra Care During Complex Studies

Two technicians holding a pig

Staff place extra emphasis on monitoring animals used in protocols with potentially higher welfare impacts, ensuring that these animals receive additional and appropriate care to mitigate (as much as possible) any negative experiences.

Examples of enhanced and appropriate care could include analgesia, increased bedding, warmth, or softer food.