The welfare of animals used in our biomedical research programmes is of the highest priority. Animal welfare at the School is the responsibility of an integrated team of animal technicians, scientists and veterinarians. Both the facilities we have built and the experience and training of all animal users contributes to this objective.
The Biological Services Facility was reopened in 2012 following a complete refurbishment of the animal accommodation spaces, engineering infrastructure and pathogen containment facilities. It is designed for, and houses only, small laboratory rodents such as mice. There is no existing or planned use of larger animals. Animals are provided with food and water, along with nesting material and platforms within the cage for enrichment.
Animal welfare is the responsibility of every researcher and animal technician who uses the Biological Services Facility, but is the formal day-to-day responsibility of the Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer (NACWO). This officer is independent from the scientific programme and reports directly to the establishment license holder on a monthly basis (and at any other time as required).
The health and well-being of every animal, either as stock or currently involved in an experiment, is assessed at least once every day (and often more frequently) by our trained team of technicians, in conjunction with the researchers themselves. Veterinary advice and care is provided by the Named Veterinary Surgeon (currently from the Royal Veterinary College, London), an expert in health issues relating to small laboratory rodents.
The Named Veterinary Surgeon visits monthly for routine inspection of the entire facility and is on call 24/7 and 365 days per year to attend to any issue as required. Since January 2014, the Home Office also requires that a formal health assessment of every animal under experimentation is performed and recorded daily and reported in the Annual Return of Procedures.
In combination, the Biological Services Facility staff have over 75 years of experience in animal research. They work 365 days per year to assess and maintain the animals used in our research. They are all registered members (RAn.Tech) of the Institute of Animal Technology and are members of the Laboratory Animals Scientific Association. They are committed to implementing and promoting excellence in the care and welfare of animals in science.
Our staff regularly attend conferences and workshops for their continuing professional development in order to keep up to date and help introduce new advances in animal husbandry and research methods to our users.
Researchers performing experiments on animals within the facility must hold a valid Personal Licence from the Home Office and the experiments they perform are governed by a project license specific for their scientific area of work. To obtain a Personal Licence, all animal users must attend an initial training course (currently provided by the Royal Veterinary College) and then undergo an extensive process of procedure-specific training mentored by a supervisor(s) with experience in the techniques to be used.
The Named Training and Competency Officer ensures that each person is verified as competent for each procedure prior to working independently and that annual refresher training/assessment is provided to ensure maintenance of their skills.
More information on laboratory animal welfare can be found on the Laboratory Animals Scientific Association (LASA) website.
Image: Mice in cardboard tube. Credit: Understanding Animal Research.