Currently, there is a lack of detailed information about sheep used for biomedical research. Therefore, a European survey was conducted among sheep users gathering information on the current situation, with emphasis on animal selection criteria and issues encountered in practice. The ultimate goal was to identify needs for improvement, which will subsequently lead to a refinement and reduction of the total number of animals used for experimental studies. From the 84 respondents, 77.4% were veterinarians, 71.4% were employed at academic institutions and 63.1% had worked with sheep as research animals for more than 5 years. The majority of the respondents were using females (79.8%) with no clear age preference, mainly for surgical procedures and testing medical devices. The main criteria for choosing a sheep supplier were the animals' health status, their availability, the trust and experience in the sheep provider and the animals' uniformity. Approximately 60% of the respondents had encountered problems in their sheep not related to the experimental protocol and almost half of them did not have a health monitoring program for their animals. In conclusion, there is definitely a need for refinement in selecting sheep used in biomedical research, with their health status as possible starting point.
Keywords: health; preclinical research; sheep; survey.