I would like to propose that when you review papers, you look for descriptions of animal care that include anesthesia and analgesia techniques. Look for specifics of acclimation and disposition and things such as whether animals were conditioned to be able to accept certain parts of the study. I believe that if we are not going to have these methods published, if we lack space that is precious in our research publications, then we must find some other place for that information. Many people are developing very interesting techniques to which we have been unable to have access. Our Internet user groups have made a huge difference because we can all speak to each other instead of talking on the telephone. We can speak to each other in large groups (and search previous conversations).
The question in my mind is whether we should change the practice of up-front reporting of prospective pain and distress categories. I think the limitations of predictability can be overcome by appropriate observation and flexibility. Observation and documentation are key. If significant efforts are not made to assess and document pain and distress, then accurate reporting will never be possible. You will not know. No matter what method is used, we all might as well go home and not bother to redefine things anymore.
I believe that some sort of internal review must take place, and it can provide a reality check. The IACUC or the attending veterinarian, depending on the institution, can assume this role. Validation is achieved by periodic or even random (e.g., USDA inspections) IACUC review and consideration of category assignment. I realize that in proposing this, I am proposing that someone will be required to do more work.
I agree with HSUS that it is not beyond the scope and responsibility of the scientific community to determine underlying principles of pain and distress alleviation in animals, which can then be applied to various models and methods. I think it is not beyond our scope. It is going to take some work, but we can start right now by looking at the animals, at how they are doing, and documenting that information. We cannot say that everything went alright unless we check to see whether it did.
NRC [National Research Council]. 1996. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. 7th ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Smith J.A., L. Birke, and D. Sadler. 1997. Reporting animal use in scientific papers. Lab Anim 31: 312-317.