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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science
Husbandry

Evaluating environmental enrichment

Supporting technicians in assessing the welfare impact of enrichment.
Three brown mice inside, on top of and around a cubic wooden shelter with circular holes.

This resource compiled by the NC3Rs, RSPCA and Institute of Animal Technology (IAT) can help laboratory animals technicians make informed decisions about the suitability of environmental enrichment items for animals within their facility. It aims to empower technical staff to undertake robust evaluations of environmental enrichment items and assess their impact on animal welfare.

How to use this resource

  • Read through all sections to familiarise yourself with suitable enrichment for the laboratory animal species you work with and how to evaluate whether your chosen enrichment items will effectively improve animal welfare.
  • Use the example protocols and other guidance on our approaches to evaluating enrichment page to plan your own enrichment evaluation study. In particular, the decision table will help you decide what type of study protocol might best suit your circumstances, taking account of the time investment and resources required. We also provide advice on adapting the protocols and improving the scientific quality of your study. The examples focus on mouserat and zebrafish husbandry, but the general advice (e.g. on experimental design) is applicable across all species.
  • Before you begin your study, consider the preparation required and the steps that follow on from data collection (i.e. data analysis and sharing your findings).

The content in this resource has been developed for animal technicians, with practicality in mind. It is not intended to provide detailed guidance on ethology and experimental design for those working outside of research animal facilities.

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improving this resource. Please email tech3Rs@nc3rs.org.uk to get in touch.

NC3Rs, RSPCA and IAT logos

 

We gratefully acknowledge all contributors to this resource, especially Dr Penny Hawkins of the RSPCA’s Animals in Science Department, the Animal Welfare Group of the IAT, and technicians from the University College London’s Welfare Trials Group. We are also grateful to the units, technicians and researchers who contributed images for use in this resource.