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Home No. 33: How Can I Prevent Escape of Animals in Critical Study?

Nov 29

No. 33: How Can I Prevent Escape of Animals in Critical Study?

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How Can I Prevent Escape of Animals in Critical Study?

Reader Question: : Two animals in our research study escaped during the past few months. They were recaptured, but this can compromise a study so I want to make sure it doesn't happen again. Any suggestions?

Expert Comments:

We had a similar incident at our institution, and the lessons we learned may help you. We have cats in free-roaming, group housing. The hallways inside the facility were being painted, and workers had the doors open for ventilation. The cats were behind double doors with air locks to prevent escape, but the interior door closed too slowly when the tech moved to the outer door. That meant three doors were opened at the same time, and one of the cats escaped. We worked with animal-care services to set humane traps and caught her within a couple of hours.

This cat was involved in long-term contraception research. Since our colony is specific-pathogen-free, we wouldn't allow her back into the colony; we adopted it out, protecting the health of the remaining cats. It was a blow to the research, not only because of the expense of the cat but also the number of years invested in the data we gained from it. We couldn’t replace that.

What we have done — and what you can do — is to ensure that your animal-care staff is well-informed about procedures for preventing escapes; observe often to make sure they're compliant. If you observe any breach of protocol, report it to those supervising the animal facility. Also, promote open communication between your researchers and those who care for your animals.

I can't overemphasize the training. In our case, the animal-care staff simply reviewed procedures for using the air locks correctly. We haven't had another escape.

Our research group has a collegial relationship with the animal-care staff, which helped in our case because they reported the escape to us immediately. I suggest you promote a similar environment. You want those who care for your animals to feel free to report any concerns with confidence that the matter will be handled correctly.

Expert comments by Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Director of Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida.

Like this article? Get more in your FREE issue of Laboratory Animal Welfare Compliance.

Comments (3)
associate prof-Midwest
written by JPL, December 02, 2010
just a comment on the final point, about having a collegial relationship with the animal facility people. i've found that to be advantageous on many occasions in my work. Don't treat them like they're on another planet. Treat them like an ally. Then you can count on them to report to you any issues or problems with the animals that could affect research. without that cooperation you're asking for trouble.
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