RSPCA Policy D1 General principles


RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of animals for research or teaching where any of the following apply:

  • It causes or is likely to cause injury, pain, suffering and distress to the animals involved and where this cannot be prevented or adequately controlled.
  • It is not clearly justified.
  • It involves unnecessary repetition.
  • It uses more animals than required (in research this refers to the minimum number needed for statistical validity; in teaching this refers to the minimum number needed to achieve the teaching objective).
  • It is not scientifically robust.
  • Suitable alternatives to using animals are available.


‘Research’ includes experiments, procedures, field trials, product testing, development of diagnostic tests, the production of biological products and environmental studies. Teaching includes teaching at all levels of education including vocational training.

‘Animals’ include all sentient vertebrates, cephalopods and crustaceans.


RSPCA Australia believes that, wherever animals are being considered for use in research or teaching, the humane research principles of replacement, reduction and refinement (known as the Three Rs) must be adhered to:

  • Replacement of the use of animals with alternative techniques, such as human cell and tissue culture, biological agents (e.g., yeasts and other organisms), inanimate models, human volunteers, video and computer aids and mathematical modelling (e.g., virtual populations).
  • Reduction in the numbers of animals used, such as through applying best practice statistical methodology and, where animals have already been used, sharing animal tissues with other researchers. Reduction may also be achieved through using cell and tissue cultures.
  • Refinement of procedures to improve the welfare of animals used in research, such as through the use of analgesics, avoiding adverse effects, and enhancement of housing conditions, including environmental enrichment.

People responsible for the breeding, care, management and use of animals for research and teaching must:

  • have undergone animal welfare and ethics training
  • be aware of their ethical and legal responsibilities
  • engage in caring, respectful and responsible planning and management
  • be competent, knowledgeable and conscientious to ensure good welfare for the animals concerned.

Responsible breeding, care, management and use of animals for research and teaching must ensure a good quality of life for the animals and aim for animals to live out their natural lifespan. This involves the following:

  • Recognising all animals as being sentient and capable of suffering.
  • Preventing pain and distress in animals used by ensuring appropriate use of anaesthesia and analgesia under veterinary advice.
  • Applying responsible and humane animal acquisition and breeding practices to avoid oversupply and wastage.
  • Understanding and meeting the physiological, behavioural and social needs of the animal.
  • Providing housing and transport facilities that are designed and maintained to provide a clean, comfortable and safe environment.
  • Applying appropriate animal care and husbandry practices, including handling, socialisation and environmental enrichment, which meet the animal’s needs.
  • Ensuring a high level of health and welfare including:

    • implementing a preventative health care program
    • appropriate monitoring
    • making sure that veterinary care is provided when necessary
    • ensuring that humane endpoints, out of hours care plans, emergency plans, risk assessments and mitigation strategies are in place
    • maintaining appropriate records, including training records.
  • Appointing an animal welfare officer to conduct monitoring, and report to and advise the animal ethics committee on regulatory compliance and improving animal welfare.
  • Implementing institution-funded strategies to rehome suitable animals that meet ethical and welfare considerations. Animals should be socialised to ensure their suitability for rehoming.
  • Avoiding the killing of animals but, where this occurs, ensuring that only humane methods are used.


‘Wastage’ refers to animals bred for a specific purpose that are discarded and often subsequently killed.

‘Rehome’ means that the animal will live out their natural life with a good quality of life.

1.5RSPCA Australia encourages the development of a publicly accessible database that lists the best practice guidelines of common research procedures for various species.

(adopted 5/12/2020)

Also Read

Updated on December 8, 2020

RSPCA policies reflect the best available evidence to direct and guide RSPCA and others, to promote and achieve good animal welfare outcomes.

Reference to ‘the RSPCA’ or ‘RSPCA’ in this document means RSPCA Australia and each of the RSPCA Australia member Societies.

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