Although most people support the appropriate use of animals for research and safety testing, the public expects that animals will be treated in a humane manner. The advancement of science and the ethical considerations of animal use are not antithetical. Toxicologists should be cognizant that animal pain and distress may result from their studies and should recognize their duty in minimizing or preventing this potential outcome. While the ultimate responsibility for preventing animal pain and distress is with the individual toxicologist, the responsibility for the well-being of laboratory animals is shared with the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) and the veterinary staff. The role of the veterinarian in working with toxicologists to refine animal studies is multifaceted and includes such activities as assisting in the planning stages of studies and in presubmission review of protocols, providing training in anticipation and recognition of pain and distress, providing information concerning pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic methods for alleviating or minimizing pain and distress, providing a high quality animal care and health program to support studies, and assisting toxicology staff in monitoring all phases of the study and in addressing problems in a timely manner. Veterinarians, toxicologists and IACUCs are faced with a significant, but not insurmountable, challenge in the prevention and alleviation of pain in research animals. We are beginning to categorize and agree upon subjective signs of pain and distress in various laboratory species. More research is required to develop more objective methods for recognizing pain and for providing better methods for prevention and alleviation.
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