Housing and husbandry

The quality of housing and husbandry for laboratory animals has a major impact on their health and welfare. Environments which do not meet the animals' physical, behavioural and/or social needs can result in physiological changes and abnormal behaviour (e.g. stereotypies) which not only compromise welfare but also influence the validity and reproducibility of scientific data obtained from the animals.

Housing and husbandry should allow animals to perform the widest possible range of normal, species-typical behaviour. Consideration should be given to the quality of accommodation and the quantity of space provided, and emphasis should be placed on exceeding the legal minima.

A sound knowledge of natural history and behaviour helps to ensure that appropriate accommodation and environmental enrichment is provided. Housing and husbandry should also take account of the age, health and reproductive status of the animals, and the impact of scientific procedures. 

There should be regular review of accommodation, husbandry practices and environmental enrichment. For practical support on reviewing or introducing enrichment, visit our Evaluating environmental enrichment resource.


Annex III to Directive 2010/63/EU sets out minimum standards of accommodation and care (e.g. enclosure sizes and space allocations) for commonly used laboratory animals. These follow Appendix A to the Council of Europe Convention ETS 123, which was revised in 2006 and provides a useful background document on general principles for the accomodation, care and welfare of laboratory animals (e.g. on environmental enrichment and the ambient environment).