Office of Research Integrity

Prolonged Physical Restraint

From the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (pp.29-30, 2011), "Physical restraint is the use of manual or mechanical means to limit some or all of an animal’s normal movement for the purpose of examination, collection of samples, drug administration, therapy, or experimental manipulation... Prolonged restraint…should be avoided unless it is essential for achieving research objectives and is specifically approved by the IACUC (NRC 2003b). Systems that do not limit an animal’s ability to make normal postural adjustments (e.g., subcutaneous implantation of osmotic minipumps in rodents, backpack-fitted infusion pumps in dogs and nonhuman primates, and free-stall housing for farm animals) should be used when compatible with protocol objectives.

Animals that do not adapt to necessary restraint systems should be removed from the study. When restraint devices are used, they should be specifically designed to accomplish research goals that are impossible or impractical to accomplish by other means or to prevent injury to animals or personnel.

The following are important guidelines for restraint:

  • Restraint devices should not be considered a normal method of housing, and must be justified in the animal use protocol.
  • Restraint devices should not be used simply as a convenience in handling or managing animals.
  • Alternatives to physical restraint should be considered.
  • The period of restraint should be the minimum required to accomplish the research objectives.
  • Animals to be placed in restraint devices should be given training (with positive reinforcement) to adapt to the equipment and personnel.
  • Animals that fail to adapt should be removed from the study.
  • Provision should be made for observation of the animal at appropriate intervals, as determined by the IACUC.
  • Veterinary care must be provided if lesions or illnesses associated with restraint are observed. The presence of lesions, illness, or severe behavioral change often necessitates the temporary or permanent removal of the animal from restraint.
  • The purpose of the restraint and its duration should be clearly explained to personnel involved with the study."

Prolonged Physical Restraint Policy

Physical restraint of conscious animals for purposes other than humane handling, sample collections or administration of substances must be carefully evaluated and will be subject to ongoing review by the IACUC. A management plan must be included which addresses the type, duration and frequency of restraint; adaptation schedule; provision for observation; and criteria for removal from the study, to include failure to adapt to the restraint unless such failure is the primary purpose of the restraint. Scientific justification is required in all cases. (1/13).