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Living conditions of lab animals

You will find hereunder information on living conditions of lab animals.

Lab animals are bred in specialized and authorized farms. They're then transported to research institutes. Many mice stems are also bred within labs.


Lab animal breeding meets the specific requirements of research. The animals need to be healthy and exempt from contamination, even without any symptoms, they therefore need to stay in isolated units. The breeder must guarantee the genetic quality of his animals by genetic controls and monitoring filiations. The animals' physical characteristics (weight, growth, fertility) must be consistent and stable. The behaviour must be satisfying, which requires a comfortable accommodation and breeding in groups.


Some animals can't be bred. It's the case for example of foxes — when used to study rabies — or stray domestic animals and rats  - for the analysis of the diseases they carry. For these animals there's a collection made in agreement with regulations.


Animal transportation from breeding centres to research institutes is done according to the most adapted mode: road, sea or air. It's performed with respect to regulations (sanitary controls, transportation rules, animal protection, customs). The transportation induces for the animal a change of environment, group and diet. For its well being, transportation must always be as fast and in the best conditions possible.

Once at the lab, animals are accommodated in a calm place and supervised during their acclimatization phase. This allows them to recover from stress and adapt to their new environment. By the end of this phase, they can be used for a study.

Animals' accommodation in breeding centres and research institutes are set by regulations regarding every species (p. 276/54 to p.276/71)


Buildings are built following close examination. The types and numbers of premises, and the quality of the material are controlled. The quality and level of air renewal are also inspected. The level and length of light exposure are imposed.


A sanitary surveillance strategy must be elaborated by the institutes to guarantee the animals' health.


Accommodation must be in groups (unless the concerned animals are naturally solitary) in a space with dimensions set depending on species and weight. The space is equipped to give the animals the possibility to control their environment. Of course water and food are available in satisfying quality and quantity.


The dimensions of the compartments are set by the 2010/63 directive and will be required in every country of the European Union by January 1st, 2017. This leave institutes enough time to make the necessary changes to adopt new dimensions.

According to these norms a mice must for example be accommodated on a minimum surface of 330 cm2, a ferret in at least 0,45 m2, a rabbit of 3 to 5 kg in 0,42 m2, a dog of more than 20 kg in 4 m2, a pig of 60 kg in 3 m2, a cow of 500 kg in 9 m2, and a macaque a minimum of 3,6 m3. Specific dimensions are also imposed for reproducing animals. In the last years these norms have been applied to institutes for the creation of animal units or upgrades. We believe that all French institutes will be applying these well before 2017.

The French guide for ethical evaluation on animal studies examines every step of the study concerning animals. You can refer to it for more detailed information.


During a study we often administer a product to animals to study it. Before though, the physicochemical characteristics and the effects on biological extracts and stems (in vitro) are known to avoid giving animals substances that aren't biocompatible. The product can be administered orally (force-feeding with a tube or with a capsule) or by injection. The dosage is decided considering what is already known of the product. The length of the study depends on the studied impact.


Most examinations are done with a clinical examination (aspect, attitude, behaviour, electrocardiograms, ophthalmology), weighting, eating, blood exams and urinary analysis. The quantity of blood that needs to be taken is subject to recommendations. Taking important volumes of blood must be avoided for animals, such as mice, that weigh sometimes only 20 grams.


Specific exams (x-ray, scans, MRI) can require anaesthesia. Trained employees do them according to veterinary practices.


Successive studies can be made on animals when the study allows it (no consequences, or very few, for the animal's well-being, brief duration, non-persistent product). This re-use enables more precise results and the use of a lesser number of animals. It's often practiced amongst pharmacogenetic studies (dosage of products in the blood) or in telemetry (distanced measurements).


Surgical interventions are necessary, for example, to implant catheters or miniaturized equipment (sensors or emitters). These interventions are done by employees trained for surgeries and anaesthesia, with equipment adapted to the type of intervention. A post-surgical analgesia is given whenever necessary.


Euthanasia usually ends studies, enabling some important examinations such as microscope examination or pharmacogenomic and toxicogenomic studies. The method used for euthanasia depends on the animal specie and must comply with the annex IV of the 2010/63 directive. Bodies are eliminated according to national regulations and in consideration of available nearby installations. They're usually incinerated.

Letting the animal go free is planed by the French regulation. It requires a prefect authorization. In the case of domestic animals, adoption is the only solution. The process requires public health and environmental precautions and an adapted follow-up on the animals. Some associations have aimed to facilitate these adoptions.