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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthCAAT

2014 Animal Welfare Enhancement Awards

2014 Grant Recipents

What can we learn from social strategies about the animal's state of welfare?

Saskia Arndt, PhD
Department of Animals in Science & Society
Utrecht University

An animal’s state of welfare is closely related to its environmental conditions and, in social species, to its social surroundings. An individual’s social strategy might be indicative of the way the individual perceives its social environment. We hypothesize that different strategies may exist to respond to social challenges, and that these strategies are related to the individual’s adaptive capacities.
We suggest that the welfare of an animal as perceived by itself may be threatened as the animal approaches the limits of its adaptive capacities. We will therefore characterize general adaptive capacities in rats by evaluating their behavioral habituation towards a novel stimulus. In the same individuals, social strategies will be investigated by quantifying socio-positive behaviors towards their group-mates in the home cage. Subsequently, individual habituation profiles will be evaluated and related to the individual’s social strategy. We expect that social strategies will reflect the animal’s coping-style in the social domain, and we further hypothesize that distinct social coping-styles are likely to correlate with distinct coping-styles in the non-social context. In addition physiological responses to social and non-social challenges will be investigated, expecting that physiological response patterns will be related to behavioral response patterns and coping styles. Together, these investigations will allow for the characterization of adaptive profiles in rats. In the long run we aim to provide reliable and non-invasive “tools” to assess welfare states in different animal species in order to ensure welfare along the individual’s adaptive profile.

How congnitively challenging feeding regimes affect fish welfare

Becca Franks, PhD
Department of Psychology
Columbia University

Across species, there is evidence that beyond appropriate resources (e.g. food and shelter), welfare may also depend on appropriate cognitive stimulation. This proposal aims to investigate how cognitively challenging feeding regimes may be used to improve the welfare of laboratory-housed zebrafish, Danio rerio, one of the most widely used laboratory animals. As many fish possess sophisticated cognitive abilities, we hypothesize that fish may want opportunities to exercise these abilities and that providing challenging, yet learnable and manageable feeding regimes could thereby improve their welfare. Specifically, we will examine the effect of a rigidly predictable feeding regime (little cognitive stimulation) versus a dynamically predictable feeding regime (maximal cognitive stimulation). After housing zebrafish with these conditions, we will compare fish from each condition on several behavioral indicators of welfare including the novel tank diving task, light/dark approach/avoidance test, neophobia/neophilia of novel objects, and latency to feed in a novel environment. Throughout the experiment, we will also assess behavior in the home-tank to collect data regarding feed anticipatory behavior, general activity budgets, and, stereotypical behavior. With these data, we expect to be able to determine (a) whether zebrafish are able to learn dynamic patterns and (b) how dynamically predictable feeding may affect various behavioral indicators of welfare. This research could thus provide practical information regarding ways to enhance the housing of an increasingly popular laboratory species and, more generally, speak to the role cognitive stimulation plays in welfare.

The use of ethanol injection as an euthanasia method for laboratory mice.

Claire Hankenson, DVM, MS, DACLAM
University Laboratory Animal Resources
University of Pennsylvania

Public and individual sensitivity to animal euthanasia conducted in a humane, appropriate, and compliant method, underscores the need to rely upon expertise provided in the 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals. Due to high numbers of laboratory mice enrolled in research initiatives across the globe, their treatment at the time of terminal sample collection (experimental endpoint) or for welfare-related reasons (humane endpoint) is a key area of interest when exploring refinements to current techniques. In the AVMA document, a novel method of euthanasia for mice, intraperitoneal (IP) injection of ethanol, is described. This method is categorically listed as "acceptable with conditions," yet its application is cited in only one experimental study. Regardless, the citation claimed to identify an efficacious ethanol dose and we would like to expand upon this baseline work with a more robust and rigorous examination of ethanol as an alternative to other injectable euthanasia agents. Ethanol is not a 'controlled' substance, is readily available and relatively inexpensive, and would not require specialized equipment for IP administration. In addition, this agent is available in USP grade, does not readily support bacterial growth, has a long shelf-life, and can be stored at room temperature. With access to the use of advanced heart rate monitoring equipment and pain evaluation techniques, our study will clarify the physiological and behavioral effects of IP ethanol, as compared to pentobarbital overdose, and further validate this method of euthanasia for mice in contemporary biomedical research.

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