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Animal Welfare Act and Alternatives to Painful Procedures

The Search for Alternatives

The 3 Rs should be included in your search strategy where appropriate. The Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) outlines the 3 Rs as:

  • Reduction: Minimizing the number of animals used
  • Refinement: Using techniques and procedures to reduce pain and distress
  • Replacement: Substitution of animals with non-animal methods or lower organisms

The idea of reduction, refinement, and replacement originally comes from The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by Russell and Burch.

AWIC outlines areas of concern and offers tips for what to include in a search. AWIC suggests that the following information be included in your search strategies or provided to your librarian:

  • Description of protocol and area of study
  • Species being used
  • Organ systems involved
  • Acronyms (bovine somatotropin= BST)
  • Alternate spelling (behavior/ behaviour, hemophilia/haemophilia)
  • Names of hormones, enzymes, CAS#s trade names (xylazine=rompun), etc.
  • Prominent authors in the field, including the investigator
  • Is the investigator aware of any possible alternatives?
  • Previous searches and keywords used

AWIC Search Evaluation RED FLAGS (areas of concern)

  • Only 1 database was searched
  • Terms used were only for painful aspects
  • The term “alternative” was used alone with no other alternative terms
  • Keywords listed were not relevant to the protocol
  • Keywords and concepts were linked in an incorrect manner
  • Search doesn’t cover adequate time period (5-10 years)

These terms can be combined with other terms that pertain more specifically to the anticipated research. The boxes [] represent the placement of truncation symbols. Note that databases vary on their choice of truncation symbol. Use each database’s help screen to determine the appropriate symbol. PubMed and Scopus use the asterisk. Searching the term pain* would find pain, pains, painful, etc.*

Reduction and Refinement

advers[]pain[], distress[], stress[], welfare
anesthe[, anasthe[], anaesthe[] tranquiliz[] analges[] sedative, anxiolytic
reduc[], refin[]
restrain[], restrict[], immobil[]
technique, method[], procedur[],assay[]
handl[], hous[], cag[] husbandry, environment[], enrich[], environmental enrichment, environmental enhancement, monitor[], device
euthanasia, euthanize[]



alternative, replac[], animal testing alternative, animal use alternative, surrogate,
algae, fungus, hydra, plant, fish, cephalopod, amphibian, reptile, insect, invertebrate, bacter[], microorganism, protozoan, yeast, isolated (cell, tissue, organ), culture (cell, tissue, organ), biopsy, autopsy, cadaver, mannequin] or manikin, model[], theoretical model[], artificial[], mathematical model[], QSAR, software, computer, expert system, video[], virtual (surgery, reality), simulat[], interactive, artificial intelligence, AI, digital imag[], technique, method[], procedur[], assay[], in vitro (AND method, model, technique)

*Search terms reproduced from the NIHAWIC and FRAME

  • Use more than one database
  • When searching on refinement, include terms for reduction of distress (housing, handling, euthanasia) not just reduction of pain
  • Use search terms for reduction and replacement, not just refinement
  • Include terms that pertain specifically to the anticipated research
  • Record the names of the databases used
  • Record the dates the searches were performed
  • Record the time period covered
  • Record the search strategies or search terms used
  • If you need help, contact the Reference Librarians at the Health Sciences Library