Part 3.6 Handling and basic procedures

This is Part 3.6 of the Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Laboratory Mice, Rats, Guinea Pigs and Rabbits.

The behaviour of an animal during handling and the performance of experimental procedures depends to a considerable extent on the confidence and competence of its handler, which are developed through the application of good technique. Good technique should be unhurried, sympathetic and gentle but firm and safe for the animal and operator.

Minimum standards for handling and basic procedures:

  1. Institutions must ensure that animal house personnel and investigators have the training they require to handle animals competently and to carry out basic procedures as well as those approved as a result of applications to the AEC. This may involve facilitating access to relevant courses, supervision during training and promoting the awareness of SOPs.
  2. Consideration must be given to the age and physiological state of the animal (such as, pregnant, sick, immunocompromised) when carrying out procedures or handling animals.

Species specific recommendations


  1. Care should taken to avoid handling the last third of the tail of mice and lengthy periods of handling by the tail in general.

Guinea pigs:

  1. Guinea pigs may appear nervous but rarely bite and can be easily handled. They should be forewarned before being approached to avoid stampeding. Care should taken to support the back and hindquarters when handling pregnant sows.


  1. Care should taken to support the spine and hindquarters of rabbits, especially pregnant does.
  2. A quiet approach and a darkened retreat area for rabbits (such as, PVC pipe or box that can be suspended) is recommended when catching rabbits, particularly from pens.
  3. Rabbits undergoing experimental procedures should be conditioned to human handling to reduce stress during procedures.
  4. The training and rewarding of rabbits using positive reinforcement or 'treats' should be considered when performing procedures on rabbits.
Page last updated: 14 Jul 2020