Guide to assessing laboratory animal welfare when working with partners outside Denmark

This guide is a tool for assessing animal welfare at a potential partner. Use the guide (steps 1 and 2 below) to gather information about both the specific conditions of the laboratory animals and the company's overall policies regarding animal experimentation. The guide can help you assess whether the animal welfare meets the requirements of you or your organization. The guide describes the specific factors relevant to animal welfare that you must consider when establishing collaboration with an external partner.

Purpose of the guide

The welfare of the animals is important, both for ethical reasons and for obtaining the best possible research results. Consequently, it is paramount that you or your own organization make specific demands regarding the conditions of laboratory animals when setting up collaboration with an external partner (contract research laboratory, university or other companies). Laboratory animal welfare is the sum of a wide range of factors, each contributing to the welfare (e.g. housing, enrichment, health monitoring and handling). These individual factors must be examined in order to gather knowledge about the quality of animal welfare provided at a given laboratory animal facility, thus providing a solid foundation for an informed decision about whether to establish collaboration.


A checklist has been prepared for the guide, which you can print out to write down your comments next to the individual welfare areas.

Step 1: Overall factors relevant to the assessment of the facility

Guide to assessing laboratory animal welfare


Issues requiring attention



Not all countries have legislation or regulatory supervision in the field of laboratory animals, and the standard may therefore be lower than in Europe/Denmark.

Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes

Legislation in other parts of the world:

North and South America


AAALAC is the most important accreditation programme for laboratory animal facilities. Please note that AAALAC only ensures that the facility complies with local legislation and not necessarily European or Danish legislation. If a facility is accredited, you can ask for their accreditation number and read the accreditation on the AAALAC website.


Other accreditations

There are also local accreditations, such as the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).

Other types of accreditations also exist, such as ISO 9001. Together with the Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) quality management system, these can guarantee the quality of the performance of the experiments, without focusing on animal welfare and the 3Rs, however.

Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC)

ISO 9001

Good Laboratory Practice (GLP)

Animal welfare policy

It is important to learn about a potential partner's internal policy in the area of animal experimentation.

Poor animal welfare has an impact on the health of laboratory animals, and sick animals can lead to poor research results. This means that it is important that the partner focuses on – and prioritizes – animal welfare.

The animal welfare policy may contain opinions on a wide range of areas relevant to animal welfare.

Enquire about the company's policy in this area (preferably a written policy), as this can give you an impression of whether the company gives high priority to animal welfare.

Health monitoring

Laboratory animal facilities should conduct health monitoring to ensure the health of the laboratory animals, as sick laboratory animals can lead to poor research results. You can enquire about the results of the health monitoring.

FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of mouse, rat, hamster, guinea pig and rabbit colonies in breeding and experimental units

Support for assessment of ill health in rodents

Animal welfare body

The facility should have an animal welfare body or a comparable body to advise staff on matters relating to the welfare of the laboratory animals. Ask for the names and job titles of the members of the body. It is important that a named person is responsible for animal welfare.

Caring for animals aiming for better science

Animal welfare bodies and national committees


It is important that the facility employs trained animal keepers and has at least one associated laboratory veterinarian.
There should also be an internal training programme in place for employees working directly with the animals. You can enquire about this.

Standard Operating Procedures

In order to ensure the quality of work with the animals, the facility should have established ”Standard Operating Procedures” (SOPs) for matters related to laboratory animals, such as animal care and handling, experimental procedures and housing equipment.

You can ask to be shown the facility’s SOPs.


Step 2: Animal welfare matters relevant to the assessment of the facility

Guide to assessing laboratory animal welfare

Welfare area

Issues requiring attention



The housing of laboratory animals is of great importance to their welfare, as their physiological needs must be met insofar as possible.

Ask to see the animal housing and enquire about matters relevant to animal welfare.

If physical visits are not possible, many facilities offer virtual tours or access to films and images.

You may want to consider speaking with scientists, animal keepers and veterinarians and the animal welfare officer, as they can often provide the necessary information.
When entering into a collaboration agreement with a contract research laboratory, it is often possible to purchase additional space.

Housing and husbandry: Mouse

Housing and husbandry: Rat

Housing and husbandry: Dog

Housing and husbandry: Non-human primate

Recommendations on group housing of male mice

Purchasing and transporting animals

It is important that the laboratory animals are acquired from registered breeders in order to ensure the animals’ health status, etc.

It is also important that animals are transported to the facility in a gentle manner.

After transportation, the animals must be acclimatized for an adequate period to adjust to their new environment before experimentation begins.

Best practice for animal transport

Acclimatization of rats prior to experiments (coming soon)

Acclimatization of mice prior to experiments (coming soon)


Laboratory animals should be handled as gently as possible.

Handling is essential for the animals to accept human contact, which allows procedures to be carried out in the best possible manner.

Handling and restraint: General principles

Handling and training of mice and rats for low stress procedures

Don't lift mice by the tail

Feed, feeding and watering

Feed must be stored appropriately to ensure the quality. Feed that has surpassed its shelf life or has been stored in unclean conditions should not be used.

Animals must be fed appropriately and provided with access to fresh water.

Environmental enrichment

Each species requires specific environmental enrichment to satisfy their basic needs, thereby enhancing welfare.

When working with a contract research laboratory, additional enrichment options are often available for purchase.

Choosing appropriate enrichment

Socialization and training

Training and socialization are vital to mitigate animal stress, which in turn leads to improved research outcomes.When working with a contract research laboratory, you can often purchase enhanced animal welfare through options such as socialization and training of the animals for procedures.

Training laboratory animals

Methods of killing

Investigate how the animals are killed to ensure that this is done in an ethically responsible manner.

Euthanasia - Key issues for the humane killing of laboratory animals

Support in choosing method of euthanasia for mice

Marking methods

Laboratory animals must be marked using the least painful methods possible, and only by a veterinarian or an individual trained and experienced in performing such marking procedures.

Anaesthesia and analgesia

Appropriate anaesthesia (sedation) and analgesia (pain relief) are necessary both for animal welfare and for the results of the experimentation.

Enquire about the procedures for anaesthesia and analgesia that are being used.

If you lack the necessary knowledge to evaluate the procedures used, seek assistance from experts.

Aseptic surgery

Pay attention to whether aseptic techniques are adhered to during surgical procedures, as failure to do so may result in increased mortality, heightened suffering, and pain.

Considerations for Rodent Surgery

Experiment-specific procedures

Enquire about the procedures to be performed on the animals.

If you lack the necessary knowledge to decide on the quality of the planned work, seek assistance from experts.

JoVE | Peer Reviewed Scientific Video Journal - Methods and Protocols