IACUC Policy on Animal Housing and Enrichment
The primary aim of environmental enrichment is to enhance animal well-being by providing animals with sensory and motor stimulation, through structures and resources that facilitate the expression of species-specific behaviors and promote psychological well-being through physical exercise, manipulative activities, and cognitive challenges according to species-specific characteristics. 1 Federal animal welfare regulations also provide specific requirements to meet the enrichment and exercise requirements for non-human primates 2 and dogs 3, respectively.
Standard housing refers to the type(s) of housing approved by IACUC and provided by ULAR for general use (varies by species).
Environmental enrichment refers to additions to an animal's environment with which it can interact. The goal is to allow animals to express a range of species-typical behaviors which may enhance their well-being. Examples of environmental enrichment include:
- Group housing of compatible animals
- Providing animals with a means for control over their environment (e.g., nest-building materials, hiding places)
- Novel items (e.g., toys, special food treats)
- Opportunity for exercise (e.g., running wheels, climbing structures)
The appropriateness of specific environmental enrichment is determined by the species used, type of housing, space available, research needs, standard husbandry practices and other operational issues.
The Guide1 states that single housing of social species should be the exception. Social housing will be considered by the IACUC as the default method of housing unless otherwise justified based on social incompatibility resulting from inappropriate behavior, veterinary concerns regarding animal well-being, or scientific necessity approved by the IACUC. Social species maintained at UCI include all mice, rats and cats. When necessary, single housing of social animals should be limited to the minimum period necessary. Common exceptions to social housing are:
- Any animal that has demonstrated aggression/fighting behavior, or animals known to have a propensity for fighting (e.g., male mice, male rabbits, female hamsters).
- Breeders not currently in use.
- When a companion animal is not available (e.g., a single animal of a particular sex at weaning, or the last animal remaining in an experimental cohort.
- Animals in the immediate post-surgical period (i.e., when sutures are present); however, animals must be returned to social housing agaiin after suture removal.
- Scientific necessity as reviewed and approved by the IACUC.
To provide for the physical and social needs of research animals, the IACUC requires that appropriate environmental enrichment be provided as part of standard animal housing unless there is scientific justification, approved by the IACUC that precludes the use of environmental enrichment materials or practices. This policy outlines the types of standard housing used for laboratory animal species at UCI and the types of environmental enrichment materials or practices that may be used to enhance species-specific behavior and reduce distress and anxiety in laboratory animals.
- All animals housed for use in research, teaching or testing purposes at UCI must be housed in an animal facility or other space approved by the IACUC.
- Each animal housing room (or isolated housing unit) will contain a single species unless special housing arrangements have been made with ULAR for compatible species.
- Standard housing is provided by ULAR on a recharge basis, unless the IACUC has approved that housing can be provided and maintained by research groups. For certain species of animals that are not currently or routinely housed at UCI, research groups may be responsible for set-up costs to provide specialized equipment for maintaining the animals.
- Changes to the standard housing and environmental enrichment described in Table 1 below are not permitted except under the following circumstances:
- Changes are described in the animal use protocol and approved by the UCI IACUC.
- Changes are prescribed by the ULAR Veterinary Services group for animal health or welfare reasons.
- Enrichment materials or practices should not significantly alter the species-appropriate standards for husbandry, nutrient requirements or housing, as described in The Guide, unless these deiations are described and approved by the IACUC in the animal use protocol.
- Provision of environmental enrichment other than the Standard or Allowed Environmental Enrichment described in Table 1 must be described in the IACUC protocol. If the standard housing and enrichment for the species cannot be used, a justification must be submitted and approved by the IACUC.
- For USDA-covered species, a written record of the environmental enrichment items provided will be kept along with the daily husbandry records
Table of Standard and Additional Enrichment
|Standard Housing||Standard Environmental Enrichment Required|
|Additional Enrichment Allowed/Recommended
(Research Group Must Provide)