Social Housing of Animals - Part 2

On October 14, a message was sent to the research community regarding social housing of animals consistent with the 8th edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. That message can be downloaded from: http://www.iacuc.pitt.edu/documents/SocialHousingOfAnimals.pdf .

A number of questions have arisen about the IACUC's policy on social housing of animals, and this communication is intended to address these concerns.

Social Housing is Now the Default Housing for All Animals

The 8th edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals emphasizes the need to socially house animals. AAALAC site visitors will closely monitor our social housing practices during the triennial site visit on November 12-15. Accordingly, upon receipt from a vendor, DLAR personnel will attempt to socially house all animals unless there is a scientific need to single-house the animals that is approved by the IACUC. Some investigators have requested single housing of animals, although the protocol to which they are assigned does not specify that single housing is necessary. The DLAR will not be able to honor such requests in the future, and will only single house animals received into the program if the IACUC protocol to which they are assigned specifies that single housing is required.

If there is a scientific requirement to single house animals assigned to one of your IACUC-approved protocols and this is not currently specified in the protocol, please modify that protocol (by submitting a modification application to the IACUC) by November 4. If a modification has not been submitted by November 4, and single housing is not already specified in the protocol, the DLAR will attempt to socially house the animals.

DLAR Will Manage Social Housing of Animals

Some animals cannot be socially housed, due to their aggressive nature or for other veterinary reasons. The DLAR will monitor animal colonies for these situations, and will work with investigators to single house animals on a case-by-case basis to protect animal health and welfare. If an investigator believes that an animal should be singly housed, they should alert their DLAR Facility Supervisor or Veterinarian.

Routine Exemptions from Social Housing

It is recognized that animals must be housed individually during a number of routine situations common to housing laboratory animals in research facilities. Investigators and their staff members will be requeried by DLAR staff members when single housed animals are observed, and the rationale for individually housing the animals must be provided. Single housing of animals that does not fall into one of the situations listed below will be considered as noncompliance with the IACUC's Social Housing Policy, and will be reported to the IACUC Compliance Officer.

Exemptions allowing animals to be single housed:

  1. There is a compelling scientific reason to single-house an animal, which is described and justified in an approved IACUC protocol.
  2. A DLAR Veterinarian provides a dispensation for single housing an animal to maintain animal health or welfare. Demonstrated aggressive or otherwise socially incompatible
    animals will be single housed to protect the health and welfare of other animals.
  3. The animal is being fasted prior to surgery or another procedure requiring anesthesia.
  4. The animal is recovering from a surgery performed less than a week ago. The need to single house animals for greater than seven days postoperatively must be outlined in an IACUC approved protocol.
  5. The animal is a male rabbit. DLAR personnel are often successful with socially housing female rabbits, and thus will routinely attempt to socially house these animals. However, demonstrated aggressive or socially incompatible females will be housed individually.
  6. The animal is the sole remaining animal in an experimental group due to research attrition.
  7. There is no socially-compatible animal available to place with the single-housed animal.
  8. The animal is used for IACUC-approved rodent breeding, and is either: a) a breeder male between matings, b) a pregnant female that is near delivery, or c) a juvenile has just been weaned and is the sole male or female in the litter.