Laboratory animals are monitored very carefully, from their arrival at the study site, throughout the duration of the study, and up to rehabilitation or euthanasia.
Animal studies are controlled by ethical and regulatory measures guaranteeing the respectful and kind treatment of animals.
Acclimation and adjustment of animals
Animals used in research are bred by the research centers or authorized breeders. It may sometimes therefore be necessary to transport them to the study site where they will be used for research.
An acclimation period is necessary after transport. This aims to allow the animals to stabilize from a physiological and behavioral perspective. This process is essential to the animals' well-being and for validation of the study results.
A specific adjustment period is also essential when the study entails:
- physical constraints (frequent handling, restraint, housing in a specific ambient environment)
- prior training
- use of animals having already been used in studies
Fate of the animal
At the end of a procedure, the fate of the animal should allow any pain, suffering or potential distress to be reduced as far as possible.
Animals kept alive and reused
The animals must receive appropriate care before, during and after the study procedures. They are housed under conditions able to ensure their well-being, and placed under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon or another competent person.
Reuse of animals in study procedures must be compatible with the regulation. This may only take place upon veterinary advice, when the animal's health and well-being have been fully restored, and if it has not previously been subjected to severe constraints.
Adoption or release into the wild
The regulation provides for the possibility for animals used in study procedures to be adopted or released into the wild, in an appropriate habitat suited to the species. This option requires authorization from the prefect, providing:
- the animal's health, certified by a veterinary surgeon, permits it to be
- there is no danger to public health, animal health or the environment (which excludes transgenic animals from this procedure)
- appropriate measures have been taken to protect the animal's well-being
A 4th R in development: rehabilitation of the animals
There are no legal obligations to release animals used in research into the wild or find a home for them at the end of a project. Nevertheless, continuing the 3R Principle, a fourth R has been introduced in recent years: Rehabilitation of animals. This mainly concerns dogs, cats, primates, and horses which are often sent to animal protection associations, responsible for finding suitable homes for the animals.
Inserm works with associations involved in this procedure, such as White Rabbit or Groupement de réflexion et d’action pour l’animal (Graal).
It may be necessary to euthanize animals used in research for various reasons: study protocol requirement (for sampling tissues or organs), risk of lasting harm to the animal after the study, if an endpoint is reached, etc. Euthanasia should then be performed using an appropriate method (annexe IV de l'arrêté du 1er février 2013) and by a trained person. This is followed by an attestation of death, which should be recorded on the animal register.