Limiting pain

Based on the NHMRC Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, 8th Edition, 2013 the AEC recommends that analgesia should be used routinely after every painful procedure on animals unless there is scientific justification that this will affect the results of the experiment.


Extract from the Code

  • 3.3.4 Pain and distress cannot be evaluated easily in animals, and therefore investigators or teachers must assume that animals experience pain in a manner similar to humans. Decisions regarding their welfare in scientific and teaching activities must be based on this assumption unless there is evidence to the contrary.
  • 3.3.5 The investigator or teacher must anticipate and take all possible steps to avoid or minimise pain and distress, including:
  1. choosing the most humane method for the conduct of the study;
  2. ensuring the technical skills and competence of all persons involved in animal care and use;
  3. ensuring that animals are adequately monitored for evidence of pain and distress;
  4. acting promptly to alleviate pain or distress;
  5. using anaesthetic, analgesic and tranquillising agents appropriate to the species and the scientific or educational aims;
  6. conducting studies over the shortest time practicable; and
  7. using appropriate methods of euthanasia.
  • 3.3.6 Where the condition of an animal indicates that there is a need for intervention to limit pain or distress, actions that may be taken include an increase in the frequency of observation, consultation with a veterinarian, administration of analgesic agents or other appropriate medication, removal from the project and euthanasia.
  • 3.3.7 The use of local or general anaesthetics, analgesics or tranquillisers must be appropriate to the species, and should at least parallel their use in current medical or veterinary practice.
  • 3.3.8 Scientific and teaching activities which are liable to cause pain of a kind and degree for which anaesthesia would normally be used in medical or veterinary practice must be carried out under anaesthesia.
  • 3.3.9 Distress can sometimes be avoided or minimised by non-pharmacological means. Before a study begins, animals should be appropriately conditioned to the study environment and procedures, and be familiar with handlers. During and after experimental procedures, appropriate nursing to minimise pain and distress, and to promote the well-being of the animals, must be provided.
  • 3.3.10 If animals develop signs of severe pain or distress despite the precautions outlined above, they must have the pain or distress alleviated promptly or must be killed humanely and without delay. Alleviation of such pain or distress must take precedence over continuing or finishing the study.