Creating Institutional Change for Refined Mouse Handling

It takes time and dedicated effort to switch an entire institution to refined mouse handling. Below are the steps we recommend taking for the best success.

1. Curate & identify champions for refined handling from husbandry & scientific staff. 

It’s important to start small and ask for volunteers before changing institutional policies. Leverage your relationships within the animal facility to identify individuals most likely to employ, or who already employ, this technique.  

2. Get initial high-level support from management & regulatory bodies (IACUC, etc.) for a small pilot or launch. 

Before starting refined mouse handling, be sure that you have approval from management, any researchers whose mice are involved, and regulatory bodies. This will ensure that the procedures are fully approved. 

3. Implement refined handling at a small scale. For example, in just the training colony, a particular breeding colony, or 1-2 research labs. If pilots are requested for operations or otherwise, run those. 

By starting small, you can determine what particular challenges and solutions may exist at your facility. These small scale implementation efforts also provide proof of concept and allow champions to become familiar with the procedures. 

4. Work to gain consensus that the ultimate goal is a full institutional switch to refined mouse handling. 

Leverage your successes at a small scale to gain approval from key individuals that the goal should be to make institution-wide change. It may work best to first obtain veterinarian and administrative support, then operations and husbandry, and finally scientific staff. 

5. If you have decided to use tunnels and don’t currently have them in cages, work with Operations to choose a certain type of tunnel and order adequate supplies. 

You will want to have enough tunnels on hand to support your facility in the switch. Be sure that cage wash staff are prepared for the potential of increased cage handling time. 

6. Roll out refined handling in stages to address feedback/concerns by personnel type (husbandry vs clinical concerns), project type, research group, animal room, etc. 

It is best to roll out refined handling in small chunks. For example, some institutions have decided to first train all animal care staff on the methods, before transitioning research staff. Other institutions may focus on transitioning by building one group at a time. 

7. During training, provide information on both the evidence base, methods, and common perceived barriers. 

It is most effective to ensure that people know not only HOW to do the technique, but also WHY and address common misconceptions up front. Most commonly, people perceive that this technique won’t work with jumpy mice (when it was designed for wild mice), that it’s not compatible with restraint or procedures (when evidence shows it is), and that it will take too long (when institutions report after the switch that no more time is required). 

You could consider bringing in an external expert, such as from the 3Rs Collaborative Refinement Initiative, to speak with your institution about the benefits of refined mouse handling. Alternatively, you could watch one of the recorded lectures from our refinement team. The 3Rs Collaborative and NC3Rs will soon be launching a virtual certificate course for Refined Handling that will address both of these options. 

8. Track & address concerns, issues, & acceptance 

Ideally, institutions should conduct regular surveys of staff, ask for feedback during meetings or conversations, or have anonymous drop boxes to submit feedback. This will allow you to assess compliance with new policies and address any concerns. 

9. Focus on the early-adopters and don’t let the hold outs get you down. 

It is best to focus your time and energy initially on the so called “early adopters” who are genuinely interested in the switch. Once these individuals have switched techniques, many more will follow. On the flip side, don’t spend too much of your time or energy on the “hold-outs” especially if they do not hold key positions of power. Your institution doesn’t have to have 100% compliance to make a real difference. 

For more details & tips see the 3Rs Collaborative Human Behavior Change for the 3Rs and NC3Rs tips for implementation. 

Success Stories

Below are success stories from AstraZeneca and University of Florida that detail their processes, challenges, and solutions in transitioning their institutions to refined mouse handling. 

For even more stories of success see NC3Rs Testimonials from Users

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