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Open Access The Effect of an Environmental Enrichment Device on Individually Caged Rabbits in a Safety Assessment Facility

The primary enclosure of a laboratory animal's environment should encourage species-typical behavior and enhancement of the animal's well-being, as indicated by the Guide. Enrichment devices have been documented to decrease the incidence of stereotypical behaviors and increase overall activity of rabbits. An 8-week study was performed to evaluate the effect of an environmental enrichment device, stainless-steel rabbit rattles on spring clips, on individually housed rabbits in a Safety Assessment facility. We used 48 New Zealand White rabbits; the devices were placed on cages of 32 study rabbits, and 16 control rabbits had no devices. Food consumption measurements and observations of device manipulations (taken during a predetermined peak interaction 1-h timeframe) were collected 5 days per week. All rabbits were bled for evaluation of hematologic parameters for the stress triad (neutrophilia, lymphopenia, and eosinopenia) and weighed weekly. No significant differences were found between study and control rabbits when body weights, food consumption, and hematologic parameters were analyzed. Our study supports previous findings that interaction with enrichment devices decreases over time, thus indicating the need for frequent rotation of different enrichment devices. In addition, no adverse effects of the analyzed parameters were found, indicating that stainless-steel rabbit rattles on spring clips are suitable devices for safety assessment studies, in which the introduction of new variables is often unacceptable.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Laboratory Animal Resources, Sumneytown Pike, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486 2: Merck Research Laboratories, Sumneytown Pike, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486 3: Department of Biometrics Research, Sumneytown Pike, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486 4: University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, 3800 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 5: Acute Toxicology, Department of Safety Assessment, Sumneytown Pike, West Point, Pennsylvania 19486

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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  • The Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (JAALAS) serves as an official communication vehicle for the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). The journal includes a section of refereed articles and a section of AALAS association news. The mission of the refereed section of the journal is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information on animal biology, technology, facility operations, management, and compliance as relevant to the AALAS membership. JAALAS accepts research reports (data-based) or scholarly reports (literature-based), with the caveat that all articles, including solicited manuscripts, must include appropriate references and must undergo peer review.

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