Evaluating environmental enrichment

This resource aims to help laboratory animals technicians make informed decisions about the suitability of environmental enrichment items for animals within their facility. A key aim is to empower technical staff to undertake robust evaluations of environmental enrichment items and assess their impact on animal welfare.

Example enrichment study protocols are provided for different levels of staff resource and expertise. The examples focus on mouse, rat and zebrafish husbandry; however the general advice (e.g. on experimental design) is applicable across all species.

How to use this resource

  • Read through the sections below 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 to plan your own enrichment evaluation study. This 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.
  • 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).

Acknowledgements and feedback

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 Institute of Animal Technology (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, including those whose images are used for the banner at the top of this page: University College London, the Preclinical Research Facility at the University of Leicester and the University of Cambridge.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome – email tech3Rs@nc3rs.org.uk to get in touch.

The content 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.