Simple Summary: Biotelemetry, the remote detection and measurement of an animal function or activity, is widely used in animal research. Biotelemetry devices transmit physiological or behavioural data and may be surgically implanted into animals, or externally attached. This can help to reduce animal numbers and improve welfare, e.g., if animals can be group housed and move freely instead of being tethered to a recording device. However, biotelemetry can also cause pain and distress to animals due to surgery, attachment, single housing and long term laboratory housing. This article explains how welfare and science can be improved by avoiding or minimising these harms.
Abstract: Biotelemetry can contribute towards reducing animal numbers and suffering in disciplines including physiology, pharmacology and behavioural research. However, the technique can also cause harm to animals, making biotelemetry a ‘refinement that needs refining’. Current welfare issues relating to the housing and husbandry of animals used in biotelemetry studies are single vs. group housing, provision of environmental enrichment, long term laboratory housing and use of telemetered data to help assess welfare. Animals may be singly housed because more than one device transmits on the same wavelength; due to concerns regarding damage to surgical sites; because they are wearing exteriorised jackets; or if monitoring systems can only record from individually housed animals. Much of this can be overcome by thoughtful experimental design and surgery refinements. Similarly, if biotelemetry studies preclude certain enrichment items, husbandry refinement protocols can be adapted to permit some environmental stimulation. Nevertheless, long-term laboratory housing raises welfare concerns and maximum durations should be defined. Telemetered data can be used to help assess welfare, helping to determine endpoints and refine future studies. The above measures will help to improve data quality as well as welfare, because experimental confounds due to physiological and psychological stress will be minimised.
Keywords: Three Rs; refinement; reduction; biotelemetry; environmental enrichment; animal husbandry; surgery; ethical review; animal welfare; welfare assessment
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Hawkins, P. Refining Housing, Husbandry and Care for Animals Used in Studies Involving Biotelemetry. Animals 2014, 4, 361-373.
Hawkins P. Refining Housing, Husbandry and Care for Animals Used in Studies Involving Biotelemetry. Animals. 2014; 4(2):361-373.
Hawkins, Penny. 2014. "Refining Housing, Husbandry and Care for Animals Used in Studies Involving Biotelemetry." Animals 4, no. 2: 361-373.