1. Introduction, Purpose and Scope of this Code
The 'Code of Practice for Housing and Care of Laboratory Mice, Rats, Guinea Pigs and Rabbits' applies throughout Victoria. It establishes minimum standards for the housing and care of these animals under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (The Act) and Regulations 1997. This code is intended to be read in conjunction with the current Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (The Australian Code).
Minimum standards in this code will be enforceable, as it is a mandatory 'code of practice' under Part 3 of The Act. Proposed variations to these standards, as part of an experimental or breeding protocol, must be justified to and approved by an Animal Ethics Committee.
The recommendations serve to provide further guidance and should be promoted wherever possible to achieve practice above and beyond the minimum standards.
This document has been developed in collaboration with a number of laboratory animal veterinarians, animal technicians, animal house managers, inspectors and animal welfare officers from academic and research institutions and private industry. This consultation ensured that wide experience and specialised knowledge relevant to this animal industry in Victoria formed the basis of the information presented herein. Relevant international codes, guidelines, standards and references were also considered as were submissions from the Victorian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and a period of public comment. This is the first code of its type and content in Australia.
It should be noted that this code is not intended as an exhaustive source of information on the housing and care of the four species covered. For example, details of dietary requirements, structural requirements of animal rooms and animal handling and basic procedures are not included as it was felt that an overly prescriptive document would not best serve the wide variety of institutions and situations in which it has relevance.
Appendices 4-10 provide examples of various monitoring sheets that are currently used in some institutions and may be recommended to assist in monitoring and recording in institutions in general.
It is intended that this code will assist a wide spectrum of people involved in the use of animals in scientific procedures to ensure that minimum standards of animal care, housing and welfare are achieved and that recommendations of 'best practice' and the 'three Rs' of Russell and Birch - Replacement, Reduction and Refinement - are promoted wherever possible. As new information on how best to house and care for these laboratory animals becomes available, the code will be updated and reviewed by the Bureau of Animal Welfare.