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Proceedings for Pain Management and Humane Endpoints

The Triple A Approach to Assure Animal Welfare

J.A. Davis, PhD
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Russell and Burch's Three Rs (reduce, replace, refine) provides the framework for reducing animal pain and distress in biomedical research. Replacement has, perhaps, gained the most attention because activist groups targeted toxicity testing in animals. However, toxicity testing represents only a small percentage of research involving animals. Refinement, on the other hand, has the greatest potential to reduce animal distress and/or pain due to experimental procedures.

Good experimental design defines the variables of interest, with all remaining parameters remaining the same in order to isolate and assess the specific variable(s) of interest. The experimental design is at risk of compromise if confounding variables are introduced through poor animal well-being. These unintended consequences (either physiological, psychological, or both) will affect the scientific data collected and thus should be avoided as much as possible. Avoiding such unintended effects on animal well-being involves much more than selection of the appropriate anesthetic or analgesic; good experimentation demands employing strategies that minimize factors that would direct physiological (and psychological) responses from the norm. Attention given to refinement from this point of view will also result in other benefits such as strengthening the scientific data (less inter-animal variability between experimental animals and controls) and should also lead to reduction in numbers of animals used because animal moribundity and/or morbidity usually lead to greater numbers of animals needed to reach the scientific objective.

Research strategies utilized in our institute will be discussed. It is important that the scientist and veterinarian form a partnership in this endeavor because, to be successful, it must be a dynamic - not a static - process. As each partner gains experience with the animals' responses to the experimental manipulations, we are better able to refine our intervention strategies, predict earlier intervention points, and apply our experiences to other similar protocols. We suggest that there are three phases to the study: approach, assess, and address with a fourth phase one of adjustment. The sum of these activities results in assurance that we are eliminating or mitigating as much animal distress and/or pain as possible.

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