University of Stirling researchers aim to improve welfare of dogs with launch of new website (RefiningDogCare.com).
Researchers from the University of Stirling, Scotland, have today released a website which aims to improve the welfare of laboratory-housed dogs. The website, Refining Dog Care, is designed for a global audience of both scientific professionals and members of the public, providing information on dog use in scientific research, information on improving dog welfare and practical resources for use in animal facilities.
The website has been developed by animal welfare researchers Dr Laura Hall and Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith as part of a project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to engage with industry for the purposes of improving laboratory-housed dog welfare, while raising public awareness of the use of dogs in research and the overarching principles of the 3Rs: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.
In the UK, most dogs are used for regulatory safety studies for medicines which will be used in human patients, and research has shown that improving animal welfare can result in better quality scientific data with simple, practical changes (such as introducing positive reinforcement training). The principles of humane research are the 3Rs: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. Refinement refers to methods which improve welfare or minimise harms associated with use in scientific research, and it is this principle which is promoted by the Refining Dog Care project.
Dr Hall said: “Over 3500 dogs are used in research and testing in the UK every year, and over 100,000 globally, and yet there are few sources of information on effective Refinements specifically for laboratory-housed dogs. The Refining Dog Care website is part of an ongoing collaboration with UK industry which allows us to draw upon the experience of scientific and technical staff, while working together to develop new ways of improving welfare which also has the potential to improve scientific data.”
The website is the first of its kind to bring together information on laboratory-housed dogs from existing published research, industry expertise and research carried out by the project’s developers. It presents research-based resources such as tools for monitoring welfare, and photo and video guides to practical elements such as training.
Members of the public can also use the website to learn about the use of dogs in scientific research, including the types of research dogs are used in, methods of measuring and improving dog welfare and the benefits of providing Refinements such as positive reinforcement training and environmental enrichment.