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Literature Search for Alternatives to Animal Use and Painful or Stressful Procedures

Date adopted: December 12, 2006

Last date reviewed: January 18, 2012


The 3 Rs of the alternatives to animal use proposed by Russell and Burch in 1959 are (1) Reduction: minimize the number of animals used; (2) Refinement: use techniques and procedures that reduce pain and distress; and (3) Replacement: substitute animal models with non-animal techniques or lower organisms.

Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (9CFR, Part 2, Sec.2.31 (d) states "...the IACUC shall determine that... (ii) The principal investigator has considered alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals, and has provided a written narrative description of the methods and sources, e.g. the Animal Welfare Information Center , used to determine that alternatives were not available...."

USDA/Animal Care Policy 12 states "...the performance of a database search remains the most effective and efficient method for demonstrating compliance with the requirement to consider alternatives to painful/distressful procedures."

Policy Procedure:

The University of Montana IACUC requires that Principal Investigators (PIs) who plan to use laboratory animals conduct a literature search for alternatives to animal use as part of the Animal Use Protocol. Wildlife protocols are exempt from the requirement of a literature search for alternatives to animal use. Additionally, all PIs (lab animal and wildlife) using animals in USDA pain categories D and E are required to conduct a literature search for alternatives to painful or stressful procedures as part of the Animal Use Protocol.

  • A literature search for alternatives to animal use must be completed by all PIs working with laboratory animals when filling out the Animal Use Protocol.
    • Search a minimum of 2 databases (e.g. Pub Med, Agricola, Toxline).
    • Document the databases used, dates covered in the search and date of search.
    • Document the key words used for the search.
    • Write a brief summary of the search results.
      • If alternatives to the use of animals are found, but not used, you must scientifically justify not using the alternative methods.
      • If no alternatives to the use of animals are found, a statement to this effect should be included.
    • Keep a record of your search results for your own files.
  • A literature search for alternatives to painful or stressful procedures must be completed by all PIs working with lab animals or wildlife and conducting research on animals in USDA pain and stress categories D and E when filling out the Animal Use Protocol.
    • Search a minimum of 2 databases (e.g. Pub Med, Agricola, Toxline).
    • Document the databases used, dates covered in the search and date of search.
    • Document the key words used for the search.
    • Write a brief summary of the search results.
      • If alternatives to painful or stressful procedures are found, but not used, you must scientifically justify not using the alternative methods.
      • If no alternatives for the use of painful or stressful procedures are found, a statement to this effect should be included.
    • Keep a record of your search results for your own files.