Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals



Due to both the paucity of information and the lack of a clear, widely accepted definition for distress, the scientific community using animals in research, including investigators, veterinarians, animal care staff, and animal care and use committees, has not had reliable guidance in recognizing, assessing, or alleviating distress. Because minimization or elimination of distress experienced by laboratory animals is not only a regulatory requirement but also a moral obligation, it is imperative to attempt an evaluation of the state of the science and to translate current scientific knowledge into practical guidelines for use in laboratory animal facilities. Specifically, the Committee was tasked with preparing "a report on stress and distress [that] will review the current scientific literature regarding mechanisms of stress and distress for animal models used in biomedical research as well as the literature regarding methods for recognizing and alleviating distress. Emphasis will be placed on: the scientific understanding of causes and functions of stress and distress; determining when stress becomes distress; and identifying principles for recognition and alleviation of distress. Specific emphasis will be placed on the identification of humane endpoints in situations of distress and principles for minimizing distress in laboratory animals. While all possible scenarios cannot be included in this document, general guidelines and examples will be given to aid Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) members, investigators and animal care staff in making decisions about protocols using laboratory animals under current federal regulations and policies. Recommendations will be based on the most current scientific data where such data are available. The Committee will also identify gaps in the scientific literature where additional research data are needed."

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

This study was supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association; Aventis Pharmaceuticals; the Bosack-Kruger Foundation; Bristol-Myers Squibb; GlaxoSmithKline; Humane Society of the United States; Scientists Center for Animal Welfare; Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals; Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; and Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health through Contract Number N01-OD-4-2139 Task Order #161.