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Guide for the Care and use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition
physical, physiologic, and behavioral needs. Environments that fail to meet the animals’ needs may result in abnormal brain development, physiologic dysfunction, and behavioral disorders (Garner 2005; van Praag et al. 2000; Würbel 2001) that may compromise both animal well-being and scientific validity. The primary enclosure or space may need to be enriched to prevent such effects (see also section on Environmental Enrichment).
An appropriate housing space or enclosure should also account for the animals’ social needs. Social animals should be housed in stable pairs or groups of compatible individuals unless they must be housed alone for experimental reasons or because of social incompatibility (see also section on Behavioral and Social Management). Structural adjustments are frequently required for social housing (e.g., perches, visual barriers, refuges), and important resources (e.g., food, water, and shelter) should be provided in such a way that they cannot be monopolized by dominant animals (see also section on Environmental Enrichment).
The primary enclosure should provide a secure environment that does not permit animal escape and should be made of durable, nontoxic materials that resist corrosion, withstand the rigors of cleaning and regular handling, and are not detrimental to the health and research use of the animals. The enclosure should be designed and manufactured to prevent accidental entrapment of animals or their appendages and should be free of sharp edges or projections that could cause injury to the animals or personnel. It should have smooth, impervious surfaces with minimal ledges, angles, corners, and overlapping surfaces so that accumulation of dirt, debris, and moisture is minimized and cleaning and disinfecting are not impaired. All enclosures should be kept in good repair to prevent escape of or injury to animals, promote physical comfort, and facilitate sanitation and servicing. Rusting or oxidized equipment, which threatens the health or safety of animals, needs to be repaired or replaced. Less durable materials, such as wood, may be appropriate in select situations, such as outdoor corrals, perches, climbing structures, resting areas, and perimeter fences for primary enclosures. Wooden items may need to be replaced periodically because of damage or difficulties with sanitation. Painting or sealing wood surfaces with nontoxic materials may improve durability in many instances.
Flooring should be solid, perforated, or slatted with a slip-resistant surface. In the case of perforated or slatted floors, the holes and slats should have smooth edges. Their size and spacing need to be commensurate with the size of the housed animal to minimize injury and the development of foot lesions. If wire-mesh flooring is used, a solid resting area may be beneficial, as this floor type can induce foot lesions in rodents and rabbits (Drescher 1993; Fullerton and Gilliatt 1967; Rommers and Meijerhof 1996). The size and weight of the animal as well as the duration of housing on wire-mesh floors may also play a role in the development of this condi-