In 2019, the RVC used 18,012 animals in research. The vast majority of these were rodents, (predominantly rats (30% and mice (27%)); and zebrafish (28%).

These figures were submitted to the Home Office as part of the annual returns.

Species Number used Rehomed/Returned to owners/Returned to stock
Alpacas 2 2
Amphibians 1  
Cattle 17 17 
Dogs 51 33
Domestic Fowl 2175  
Geese 30  
Horses 245 236
Mice 4861  
Pigs 80  
Rats 5428  
Sheep 44  
Zebrafish 5078  
Totals 18,012 288

Twenty six client-owned pet dogs were involved in studies conducted under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) at the RVC where veterinary patients are studied in depth. These were all used with informed client consent and involved procedures of recognised veterinary practice but for reasons explained below could not be undertaken under the Veterinary Surgeons Act.

The majority of the horses used were client owned animals who were part of our clinical research programmes. Seventeen cows were blood sampled for experimental purposes but remained as part of a dairy herd at the College’s farm.

We undertake a number of clinical studies involving veterinary patients who return to the care of their owners at the end of each procedure, which may have been something as simple as a blood test. Some of these studies need to be undertaken under ASPA - because, for example, additional blood samples or other clinical tests were undertaken for research purposes, rather than for the direct benefit of the animal involved in the study - and are included in the above table and the numbers of animals involved detailed above.

For more information on these types of studies and the animals involved see Research using Client-owned Animals.

See also Use of Animals in Research - Case Studies for a series of short articles explaining how and why we use animals in research at the RVC.

Severity of procedures

Sub-threshold Mild Moderate Non-Recovery Severe
6% 26% 65.7% 0.4% 1.9%

The vast majority (96%) severe procedures related to work that has been done on zebrafish.  The impact of the microbiome in human and animal health has become more apparent in the past few years. Much of the research in this area requires the use of germ-free animal models, such as adult mice. A germ-free zebrafish embryo and larvae model has been developed at the RVC which can be used in many studies investigating the impact of the microbiome on immune system health. This reduces the need to use adult animals in these studies.  This work required a pilot study, classified as severe, to establish any adverse effects on the larvae when there was total absence of the microbiome. This pilot study established the length of time subsequent studies can be conducted whilst minimising the harm to the larvae.  The larvae were up to 9 days post fertilisation in age (so before they have adult nervous systems). This accounts for 1/3 of the severe zebrafish cases. A second pilot study was required to establish the impact and time course of a bacterial challenge infection in germ -free zebrafish larvae. Again this was to identify any adverse effects and establish the length of time subsequent studies could be conducted with the minimum of harm. This accounts for 2/3rds of the severe zebrafish cases. In combination these studies help establish how the microbiome can modify immune function in fish and other animals, opening the door to potential new treatments for infectious diseases in the future.  Subsequent experiments conducted on zebrafish within this programme of work will be conducted under a new project licence where we expect the maximum severity of the procedures to be classified as moderate and the majority of actual severities to be reported as mild.    

The proportion of our funded research that relates to animal work

As a measure of the proportion of our research that involves experimental animals, the amount external grant funding used to cover the costs of purchasing and keeping the animals has been calculated as a percentage of the total non-pay spend from external grants and is 14%.

2018/19

BSU charges to RES grants - total 609,591
Total non-pay cost to RES grants 4,347,000
   
% 14%

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