A NSW Government website

Animal Ethics Infolink
A NSW DPIRD and Animal Research Review Panel initiative

Training personnel

1.0 Introduction

This document has been written to give guidance to institutions regarding the need to provide training for personnel involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes including, researchers, teachers and technical support staff.

Recognising that the skills and knowledge of those involved are essential to achieve high standards of animal welfare and scientific outcomes, courses for people using animals in research and teaching have been developed by organisations such as the Canadian Council for Animal Care [1], the National Research Council in the United States [2] and the European Communities Biologists Association [3]. In the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, there are compulsory detailed courses for animal researchers [4,5,6].

The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (2004) highlights the responsibilities of individual researchers, who must have an appreciation of the ethical and technical issues involved with their use of animals. Researchers must use the best available scientific techniques and be competent in the procedures they perform (clause 1.18); the Animal Ethics Committee must be satisfied that those involved in each project have the qualifications and experience appropriate to the species being used and the procedures to be performed [clause 2.2.16(iii)].

In a discussion on the uses of animals in teaching (Section 6), the Code requires that where students are involved in the use of animals as part of their professional training, curricula in the academic discipline should include material on the ethical, social and scientific issues involved in such use of animals (clause 6.1.3). It is also a requirement of the Code that persons supervising students must ensure that, prior to using animals, the students receive appropriate instruction in the appropriate methods of animal handling and care and the students must have demonstrated that they are capable of performing necessary tasks with care and competence before commencing work with animals (clause 6.2.2).

The Code also states that institutions should ensure that animal care staff are appropriately trained and skilled [clause 2.1.1 (xiv)]. In many cases these staff will have attended or be attending appropriate training through TAFE courses. However, animal care staff would benefit from attending ‘in house’ courses to familiarise themselves with institutional policies and to assist in relevant continuing education. In addition, there will be circumstances where other staff are involved in animal care and some level of instruction may be appropriate.

2.0 Course content

Courses should be designed to meet the particular needs of researchers, teachers and animal care staff in the institution and the scope, detail and content of courses offered should reflect the particular needs and responsibilities of each. Training should be provided for students, teachers, research assistants or animal care staff who have not previously received such training and for current researchers who have not worked in a particular area before. With constant advances in techniques and development of new methods, refresher courses also will assist experienced staff.

Courses can be designed in a modular format with some compulsory core modules complemented by optional modules designed to give training in more specialised areas, or with certain species of animals. It is desirable that training is completed by a researcher before undertaking any animal handling, and preferably before designing research or teaching activities.

Topics that should be covered in a core module for researchers and teachers include:

  • the moral and ethical issues associated with the use of animals by humans
  • legislative and institutional requirements governing the use of animals
  • responsibilities of researchers and teachers
  • principles of experimental design including justification, replacement, reduction and refinement
  • alternatives to the use of animals in research and teaching
  • steps in applying for AEC approval
  • an introduction to the principles of animal care, including housing and handling
  • monitoring animal wellbeing including recognition and alleviation of pain and distress
  • the role of animal care staff, including veterinarians
  • record keeping and reporting
  • procurement and disposal of animals
  • occupational health and safety
  • information and resources

Optional modules should be tailored to the particular institutional and researcher/teacher needs but could cover:

  • common procedures such as administration of substances, blood collection, euthanasia and autopsy
  • surgical techniques
  • anaesthesia and pain management including the use of tranquillisers, anaesthetics and analgesics
  • techniques used in wildlife research
  • species-specific modules for animal care and use

Courses for animal care staff would be based on elements of the above and have a practical focus. Research assistants may not have to be directly responsible for submitting applications to AECs but they should have a general knowledge of the principles involved and the scope and level of their responsibilities.

3.0 Delivery

The mode of delivery should be chosen to suit the module and the learning needs of the target audience. The theoretical content of the core modules would be suited to an interactive workshop(s) with notes provided to cover basic concepts. Topics which should be covered in workshops include preparation of an application to the AEC, how to monitor and record animal wellbeing and strategies to minimise and monitor the impact of procedures. Additionally, it is important that students have an opportunity to discuss the ethical and legal issues involved.

Practical sessions should be scheduled as required and, as much as possible, be focused on the needs of individual participants which may be species and procedure specific. In the presentation of practical sessions, it is important to carefully match any use of animals to specific learning outcomes and to consider the use of non-animal alternatives for the purposes of demonstration or for students to practise the skills required to perform specific tasks. As in any educational activity involving the use of animals, the key questions are:

  • What are the educational objectives of a particular teaching activity?
  • Can the educational objectives be achieved without the use of animals?
  • Is the learning experience relevant to the desired learning outcomes? [7]

Practical sessions delivered as part of a formal course structure will introduce students to the principles which they need to be aware of in performing specific tasks and should enable them to become comfortable and confident with handling animals. However, for students to acquire the level of skill necessary to perform specific procedures, a mentor program is strongly recommended.

A list of resources which could be used to assist in the delivery of such courses is listed below.

4.0 Assessment and evaluation

Institutions may consider ways in which they can assess whether or not the students have achieved the learning outcomes of a particular course or course component. Some form of assessment would provide useful feedback to the students. Student evaluation of course content and delivery also should be considered to ensure that the course is relevant to student needs.


  1. Canadian Council on Animal Care (1999) Recommended Syllabus for an Institutional Animal User Training Program. Available from the Canadian Council on Animal Care website.
  2. Committee on Educational Programs in Laboratory Animal Science (1991) Education and Training in the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: A Guide for Developing Institutional Programs. National Academy Press, Washington DC.
  3. van Emden HM., de Cock Buning Tj., Lopes da Silva FH Eds. (1988) Competence of Biologists for Experiments on Animals. Publication No. 8 of the European Biologists Association.
  4. Education and Training of Personnel under the Animals (Scientific procedures) Act 1986. Appendix F. Home Office, London: HMSO.
  5. van Zutphen B., Blom HJM (2000) Education and training on the Three R’s: requirements and implementation. In Ball M., van Zeller AM., Halder ME Eds. Progress in the Reduction, Refinement and Replacement of Animal Experimentation. Elsevier Science BV, Amsterdam pp: 1375-1382
  6. FELASA (1995) Recommendations on the education and training of persons working with laboratory animals. Laboratory Animals 24: 121-131.
  7. Animals and Alternatives in Education –Towards Best Practice (1997) Notes from workshops held by the Animal Research Review Panel, Animal Welfare Unit, NSW Agriculture.

6.0 Teaching resources

6.1 Legislation, codes and policies

The Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (2004). Available from:

The Animal Research Act (1985) and Regulations (2005). Available from: NSW Government Publications or http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/

Model Codes of Practice sponsored by the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ) cover the transport, handling and husbandry of livestock. Available from CSIRO Publishing, PO Box 1139, Collingwood, Victoria 3066.

The Animal Research Review Panel publishes Policies and Guidelines which cover a range of situations and activities and are available on Animal Infolink website.

6.2 Recommended texts and references

Bateson P (1991) Assessment of pain in animals Animal Behaviour 42: 827-839

Donnelley S, Nolan K Eds (1990) Animals, Science & Ethics. Hastings Center Report, 20, Special Supplement.

Duncan IJH, Molony V Eds.(1986) Assessing Pain in Farm Animals. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg/Brussels.

Flecknell, P.A. (1996) Laboratory Animal Anaesthesia -A Practical Introduction for Research Workers and Technicians. 2nd.Ed. Academic Press, London UK. ISBN 0-12-

Fox, J.G., Cohen, B.J., Loew, F.M. (1984) Eds. Laboratory Animal Medicine. Academic Press.

Orlando Florida, USA. ISN 0122636201.

Kohn, D.F., Wixson, S., White, W.J., Benson, G.J. (1966) Eds. Anaesthesia and Analgesia in

Laboratory Animals. Academic Press, Orlando, USA. ISBN 0-120417570-8

Kuchel TR, Rose MA, Burrell J (1992) Animal Pain: Ethical & Scientific Perspectives, ANZCCART, Adelaide.

National Research Council (1992) Recognition and Alleviation of Pain and Distress in Laboratory Animals. National Academy of Sciences, Washington ISBN 0-309-04275-5

New Scientist (1992) Animal experiments: the great debate. A series of articles from April 4 to May 23.

Orlans FB, Beauchamp TL, Dresser R, Morton DB, Gluck JP. (1998) The Humane Use of Animals. Case Studies in Ethical Choice. Oxford University Press, New York. ISBN 0-19-511907-8

Poole, T.B. (1999) Ed. UFAW Handbook on the Care and Management of Laboratory Animals. 7th Edition. (2 Vols) Blackwells Scientific & Technical, Harlow, UK. ISBN 0-632-051337.

Rose MA (1996) Striking the balance: the practitioner and the animal ethics committee. ANZCCART News, 9: 1-3.

Russell, W.M.S., Burch, R.L. (1992) The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique.2nd.Ed.

Methuen, London, UK. ISBN 0900767782.

Smith JA, Boyd, KM. (1991) Lives in the Balance. The Ethics of Using Animals in Biomedical

Research. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 0-19-854744-7

Singer P (1990) Animal Liberation 2nd.Ed. (1990) Jonathon Cape Ltd., London. ISBN 0-224-03018-3

Scientific American (1997) Forum: The benefits and ethics of animal research. 276: 63-77

Van Zutphen L.F.M., Baumans, V., Beynen, A.C. Eds. Principles of Laboratory Animal Science - A Contribution to the Humane Use and Care of Animals and to the Quality of Experimental Results. Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ISBN 0-444-81487-6.

Waynforth HB, Flecknell PA (1992) Experimental and Surgical Techniques in the Rat 2nd.Ed Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-738851-6

Webster, J. (1994) Animal welfare -A Cool Eye Towards Eden. Blackwell Science Ltd. Oxford. UK. ISBN 0- 632-03928-0

6.3 Databases

AWIC (Animal Welfare Information Centre, National Agricultural Library, USA).

Altweb - an extensive database for information on alternatives to animal testing hosted by the John Hopkins Centre for Alternatives.

Compmed - an e-mail discussion group on scientific and welfare issues concerning the use of animals in research and teaching. For further information contact: ken@dcm.wustl.edu. Or visit: www.aalas.org/online_resources/listserves.asp (look under the CompMed heading).

Norina: an inventory of some 3,700 alternatives to the use of animals in teaching at all levels from primary school to university. Developed by the Laboratory Animal Unit of the Norwegian. College of Veterinary Medicine, Oslo.

National Library of Medicine (USA) publishes a regular annotated bibliography on alternatives to the use of animals in biomedical research.

Information Resources for Adjuvants and Antibody Production Copies available from AWIC website.

Refinement of housing conditions and environmental enrichment for laboratory animals.

National Institutes of Health website.

Websites for information on transgenics:

6.4 On-line references/policies

AVMA (2000) Report of the American Veterinary Association Panel on euthanasia. Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association, 218: 669-696. Availabel from:

BVA/FRAME/RSPCA/UFAW, (1993) Removal of blood from laboratory mammals and birds. Laboratory Animals, 27: 1-22. Copies available from: www.lal.org.uk

Essentials for Animal Research - a Primer for Research Personnel. Available from: www.nal.usda.gov/awic/pubs/noawicpubs/essentia.htm

LASA (1996/97) Recommendations for euthanasia of experimental animals. Laboratory Animals, 30: 293-316; 31: 1-32. Copies available from:

FELASA (1999)Laboratory animal health monitoring (1999) Laboratory Animals 33 Supplement 1 Copies available from:

UKCCCR (1997) Guidelines for the Welfare of Animals in Experimental Neoplasia. 2nd.Ed. UKCCCR, 20 Park Crescent London, WIN 4AL, UK.

6.5 Multimedia educational resources

Anaesthesia of Rats. An interactive training and teaching tool on CD-ROM. BSL Publishers, PO Box 246, 3990 GA Houten. E-mail: rats@blspubl.com

Careful how you hold me -an insight into caring for laboratory animals. A multimedia program for researchers, students and animal technicians. Multimedia Education Unit, University of Melbourne.

Experimental Design - a multimedia learning package to teach better experimental design written by Michael Festing, David Dewhurst and Jake Broadhurst available from Sheffield Bioscience Programs.

Laboratory Animal Medicine & Science Series II. American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. Developed in conjunction with the University of Washington's Health Sciences Center for Educational Resources (UW-HSCER). This CD-ROM includes the text and images from all the Series II programs. For further information

Humane Society International runs a Humane Education Loan Program which provides educators and students with up-to-date alternatives to animal use in teaching.

6.6 Other Learning aids

Koken Rat - anatomical model with tail vein to practice venepuncture. Available from B & K Universal, e-mail: info@bku.com

PVC Rat - for simulation of catheter implants and microsurgery. Includes an interactive CD-ROM program for patient monitoring. Available from Microsurgical Development foundation, e-mail:  info@microdev.nl or www.microdev.nl


ANZCCART( Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching).

AWIC (Animal Welfare Information Centre, US Department of Agriculture).

CCAC (Canadian Council on Animal Care).

NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council).

UFAW (Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, UK).

Laboratory Animals Ltd.

ILAR (Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources).

FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments).

Some of these sites, such as UFAW, FRAME and AWIC provide many hotlinks to other helpful sites. The Laboratory Animals and CCAC sites also have a lot of useful information, such as guidelines for specific procedures that can be downloaded.