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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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The Revision of European Housing Guidelines for Laboratory Animals: Expectations from the Point of View of Animal Welfare

Ursula G. Sauer

The housing guidelines for laboratory animals laid down in Appendix A of the European Convention for the protection of laboratory animals ETS 123 have been taken over in an Annex of Council Directive 86/609/EEC. Article 5 of the Convention and Articles 5a and 5b in the Directive state that housing conditions for laboratory animals must be appropriate to their health and well-being and that any restriction on the extent to which an experimental animal can satisfy its physiological and ethological needs shall be limited to the absolute minimum. However, the concrete housing guidelines depicted in the Annexes are inadequate to meet these principles. In addition, for many commonly used species, such as fish and amphibians, there are no housing guidelines at all. In recognition of these deficiencies, the Council of Europe is currently revising Appendix A of the Convention. Efforts are aimed at providing animals with housing conditions that enable them to live in harmonious, stable groups, fulfil their species-specific locomotory needs and engage in meaningful activity. The European Commission intends to revise the Directive accordingly. However, legal problems remain to be overcome, before the new guidelines can actually be voted upon for inclusion in either document.