Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

This seventh update to the National Research Council's Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals integrates recently published data, scientific principles, and expert opinion to recommend practices for the humane care and use of animals in research, testing, and teaching. The Guide is an internationally accepted primary reference on animal care for the scientific community. Previous editions have served as the basis for accreditation of institutions worldwide by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International. Also, use of previous editions has been required for researchers funded by the United States' Public Health Service. Additions to this eighth edition of the Guide include expanded coverage of the ethics of laboratory animal use; components of effective animal care and use Programs; and new guidelines for the housing, environment, and enrichment of terrestrial and aquatic animals, and for veterinary and clinical care.

Click here for previous editions of the Guide.

A recording of the public briefing held on June 8, 2010 in Washington, DC is now available in mp3 format. Click here to download the file.

Key Messages

  • A framework for an Animal Care and Use Program is provided to help institutions integrate regulations, policies, and principles with day-to-day operations and management. Discussion of institutional policies and responsibilities, personnel and program management and oversight, occupational health and safety, and animal facility design and management is provided to help in developing an effective animal care and use program.
  • Environmental enrichment can enhance animal well-being, provide sensory and motor stimulation, and promote psychological health. Examples of enrichment include structural additions such as perches and visual barriers for monkeys and other nonhuman primates; elevated shelves for cats and rabbits, and shelters for guinea pigs; as well as resources such as novel objects and foraging devices and nesting material for mice. Like other environmental factors, enrichment may affect the experimental outcomes and should be appropriately controlled.
  • Expanded information on topics such as transportation, pain and distress, euthanasia, and veterinary medicine is given. An acceptable veterinary program that offers a high quality of care and ethical standards is expected, regardless of the number of animals or species being maintained.
  • For the first time, the Guide contains information on the care and use of fish and other aquatic species, reflecting the growing use of these animals in research.
  • Housing space or enclosures should account for animals' social needs. Social animals should be housed in stable pairs or larger groups of compatible individuals. If there is a compelling reason to house animals singly, it should be for the shortest duration possible.
  • The three Rs -- replacement, refinement and reduction -- continue to be the core foundation of the Guide for scientific laboratory animal use. The three Rs are a practical strategy for researchers to apply when considering experiments that involve the use of laboratory animals and in designing humane animal research studies.
  • The updated Guide provides the first discussion of animal biosecurity practices. Animal biosecurity refers to all measures taken to contain, prevent, and eradicate infections that may cause disease or otherwise make laboratory animals unsuitable for research. Elements of a successful animal biosecurity program include ensuring that only animals in good health enter the facility; that materials such as food do not harbor infectious agents; and that practices are in place to limit cross contamination should an infectious agent be introduced. In addition, a comprehensive ongoing evaluation of animals' health status is needed.
  • The utility of the performance standards approach for animal care and care practices is reaffirmed. The performance standards approach describes a desired outcome but with flexibility to those responsible for managing animal care and use in achieving this outcome.