Most laboratory animals will undergo transportation at some time in their life, whether this is from one country to another, or between establishments, buildings or rooms. Most studies of animal transport have focused primarily on farm rather than laboratory animals. However, it is clear that transport can be a significant stressor that may have an impact on both animal welfare and on the scientific validity of any future studies involving animals or their offspring. This includes all journeys and all species, from mice moving within a building to non-human primates undergoing journeys by air.
The primary objective for all those involved in animal transport should be to move the animals in a manner that does not jeopardise their well-being and ensures their safe arrival at their destination in good health, with minimal distress. Many aspects of the transport process need to be considered, including:
Critical appraisal and refinement of all these organisational aspects of transport is essential if animal welfare is to be safeguarded during journeys. A LASA working group has produced detailed guidance on the transport of laboratory animals which should be read and applied.
It is also important that all relevant legislation and guidance on animal transport is complied with (see Legislation above). Designating a person in each establishment to be in charge of remaining up-to-date on transport legislation will help ensure compliance.
Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations sets out minimum standards for the welfare of animals during transport. The Regulation applies to the transport of all live vertebrate animals for the purposes of economic activity, i.e. a business or trade. It is implemented in England by The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and by parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Defra has published an overview of the requirements of the Regulation.
European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport (Revised) also applies to the movement of live animals within the EU. The transport of live animals by air is governed by the Live Animals Regulations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Transport of live GM mice should be avoided, wherever possible, by the use of fresh embryos, or cryopreserved embryos and gametes. A working group convened on behalf of the main UK funders of medical and biological research has recommended the adoption of a national passport system for all GM mice that are moved between establishments nationally and internationally.
Rodents and lagomorphs destined for UK research establishments are exempt from 6 months quarantine provided certain specified conditions are met (see Explanatory Memorandum to the Rabies Order 2004 No. 2364).
CITES permits must be obtained for all movements (import and export) of CITES listed species (e.g. non-human primates) between countries signed up to the Convention.
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