ANIMAL WELFARE, ENRICHMENT AND BEHAVIOR
The importance of social housing of captive (NHPs) to their psychological well-being has been well established, but even as late as 2007, more than half of indoor-housed primates in the US were singly-housed (Baker et al. 2007). Our site originally group-housed juveniles in indoor gang-style pens. Facility renovation and expansion increased pair and triple housing space, necessitating the development of social housing strategies to fill that space. Our site has pair- or triple-housed greater than 1,000 new sets of animals per year, with many lessons learned. The aim of this presentation is to share pairing strategies learned in the evolution of the social housing program, including methodology and temperament characteristics of successful social housing sets. A difference in success rates in pairing juveniles (100%) vs. sub-adults (96-97%) vs. adults (100% females, 83% males) drove the development of different processes for pairing depending on age class. The pairing process was streamlined for the first two classes, while a technique of analyzing pre-pairing behavior using a modified version of the human intruder test (PAIR-T), and using the assessment to select partners, was developed for the adult males that increased the pairing success by 8%. These modifications resulted in more efficient use of labor resources and increased our level of social housing across the colony.
Social enrichment has become an increasingly popular strategy for improving the welfare of laboratory animals. It is widely believed that rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) would benefit from social housing, but many laboratories in the United States are finding it challenging to implement due to high levels of injurious aggression that occur when adult rabbits are housed together. Given these challenges, there is a pressing need for a better understanding of rabbit social behavior and improved strategies for managing rabbits’ social environment. In this presentation, the natural history of the European rabbit, including their social structure and aggressive behavior, will be discussed to frame an understanding of laboratory rabbit behavior. The reigning belief that rabbits should be socially housed will be challenged, using findings from studies on wild, laboratory, and farmed rabbits, which will be presented in-depth. Finally, the specific properties of current housing strategies that may lead to aggression will be explored and suggestions for managing aggression – and a novel paradigm for understanding and managing rabbits’ social environment and welfare – will be provided.
In the laboratory animal industry, when one hears the word “enrichment”, the focus may typically go to toys, food or environmental manipulations given; however, we often overlook the importance of our interactions with the animals themselves, and how these interactions may be the single most important form of enrichment that we could offer. No interaction is inconsequential; every single interaction we have with our animals leaves a lasting impression. Positive human/animal interactions are key to successful training, assist with building trust, help to decrease stress (for the animal and human), allow us to create bonds, and help to open our eyes to learning more about individual preferences, behavior and nuances.
Captive macaques naturally form dominance hierarchies under social housing conditions. Social subordination in laboratory macaques is associated with reduced access to resources, physical harassment, threat of aggression, lack of control, and the absence of an outlet for resulting frustrations. Such persistent physical and social stress can lead to dysregulation of the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – a pathway linked to many adverse health outcomes. Social subordination stress in laboratory macaques is powerful ethological tool for studying the effects of psychosocial stress on the development of human mood disorders and chronic disease states. This talk will cover how to recognize social subordination and associated stress phenotypes, detail the physiological effects of chronic psychosocial stress, and describe how chronic psychosocial stress may relate to health and welfare considerations.
Changes in the behavioral management of nonhuman primates can be quantified by comparing surveys conducted in 2003 and 2014, involving 14 facilities housing 30,000 primates. This information is intended to assist facilities in evaluating and enhancing their programs through awareness of progress and current common practices. Surveys queried program elements such as implementation levels and methodology associated with social housing, positive reinforcement training, inanimate enrichment, and constraints on these elements, as well as program staffing and management. Since 2003, there have been considerable expansions, especially in social housing (from 74% to 83% of primates overall; from 43% to 62% of caged primates) and positive reinforcement training (from 36% to all facilities). Programs are staffed by larger numbers of behavioral management technicians. There has been increased participation of animal care technicians, suggesting enhanced integration of behavioral management into overall care.
What are rats really like? What does it mean to provide laboratory rodents with a good life? The aim of this lecture is to challenge existing preconceptions about what constitutes a ‘normal’ laboratory rat or mouse. This lecture will showcase videos and data on laboratory rodents’ motivation to perform natural behaviors, focusing on burrowing, climbing and upright standing in rats, as well as the importance of having separate nesting and elimination sites in mice. We will also explore the cognitive and social needs of rats, and how meeting those needs can impact the welfare of both the rats and their human caretakers. Creative ideas for how to implement some changes in a conventional facility will be covered.
With the recent debate around the use of carbon dioxide as a euthanasia agent for laboratory rodents, additional questions have been raised about the well-being of animals during the induction of anesthesia. In this presentation, we will review the principles of anesthesia and anesthesia overdose (euthanasia) and how to evaluate the well-being of rodents during the entire anesthesia process. We will focus on the wide variety of tools available for the assessment of well-being and how to ensure that one is selecting the appropriate assessment for experimental designs that focus on anesthesia induction. These studies are challenging primarily because the length of time from induction to loss of consciousness is highly variable depending upon the method used. The primary learning objective for this session is to understand the assessment of animal well-being and how to critically apply the appropriate tool during experimental design.