Monitoring your animals
Good animal care depends on making regular observations and understanding the behaviour of your animal. Changes in appetite, attitude, posture, sociability, amounts of faeces and urine and general activity levels are some of the ways we can tell that an animal is not feeling well or comfortable in their environment. Knowing an animal's normal, happy presentation is essential to detecting when things are not going well. Make sure you are familiar with normal behavioural patterns of your animals and learn the specific signs and symptoms of an unwell, or unhappy, animal under your care.
Recording observations while looking after animals provides a wealth of educational opportunities for students. It also provides a record that can be used to investigate unexpected events and illnesses, and to show that all the commitments made in your application to the Animal Ethics Committee have been met. There is a legal requirement for teachers to keep records of the animals they use for educational purposes. Even if nothing untoward is seen, recording a simple 'all's well' shows that the animals have been checked as promised under your Animal Ethics Committee approval.
These records must include:
- the origin and fate of the animals,
- what indicators were used to assess health and wellbeing,
- any unexpected negative impact on animal wellbeing,
- the number of students involved and the number of animals used in each activity,
- who is making the observation, and
- additional information to be recorded required by the AEC.
Records can be kept in a diary, on a computer spread sheet, on a graph or chart, or in any other way that shows the date of recording, the animals involved and the criteria listed above.
Identification is important to link observations to individual animals. Identification can be by appearance, photograph, non-injurious and non-toxic temporary marking or by permanent methods like microchip implantation (performed by an appropriately qualified person).