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 include those submitted to the Home Office as part of the annual returns.

INumbers of animals that had procedures carried out on them were:

Species Number used
Alpacas 2
Amphibians 1
Cattle 17
Dogs 51
Domestic Fowl 2175
Geese 30
Horses 245
Mice 4861
Pigs 80
Rats 5428
Sheep 44
Zebrafish 5078
Totals 18,012


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 – these  are included in the above table.

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.  

Numbers of procedures carried out at the RVC were (info added to website August 2023):

Alpacas Amphibians Cattle Dogs Domestic Fowl Equine Geese Mice Pigs Rats Sheep Zebrafish
2 1 39 51 2175 248 30 4519 80 5498 45 4944

Numbers of animals that were killed following procedures carried out were (info added to website August 2023): 

Amphibians Dogs Domestic Fowl Equine Geese Mice Pigs Rats Sheep Zebrafish
1 4 2175 10 30 4861 80 5420 40 4976

The Severity classifications of the procedures that were carried out (info added to website August 2023):   

Sub-threshold Mild Moderate Non-Recovery Severe
1052 4584 11590 63 343
6% 26% 65.7% 0.4% 1.9%

The vast majority (96%) of the severe procedures related to work 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.        

Purpose of Research carried out (numbers are procedures) - info added to website August 2023:  

  Alpacas Amphibians Cattle Dogs Domestic Fowl Equine Geese Mice Pigs Rats Sheep Zebrafish
Basic Research   1     2027 236   760   93   4230
Breeding & Maintenance of GA Animals               62       579
Translational & Applied Research 2   39 51 148 12 30 3697 80 5405 45 135
TOTALS 2 1 39 51 2175 248 30 4519 80 5498 45 4944

The following numbers of animals were either rehomed or returned to their owners:

Species Rehomed/Returned to owners/Returned to stock
Alpacas 2
Cattle 17 
Dogs 33
Horses 236
Totals 288


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%.

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


2022 figures

2021 figures

2020 figures 

2018 figures

2017 figures

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