The objective of this chapter is to provide an overview of facilities and equipment required for housing laboratory animals. Other recent publications on the subject that provide additional details include a chapter in the 2nd edition of Laboratory Animal Medicine by Hessler and Leary,1 an entire issue of Lab Animal2 that is dedicated to animal facility design and planning, and a 1991 book by Ruys.63 A review of the progress made in research animal facilities and equipment during the latter half of the 20th century is summarized by Hessler in a chapter of a book published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS).3

A major objective of laboratory animal science is to control the laboratory animal's environment. Environmental variables can alter the animal's biology, resulting in background "noise" that can mask the biological response to experimental variables, thus confounding the interpretation of the experimental data. Of course, animal comfort and well-being is paramount not only for moral reasons but also scientific reasons. Distressed animals make poor research subjects, but the fact is that many biological responses to environmental factors are not manifested in terms of stress, distress, or any overt pathologies. For this reason, the degree of control required for the research animal's environment is primarily science driven, going well beyond that required to assure the animal's well-being. It is the responsibility of laboratory animal specialists not only to provide for the comfort and well-being of the animals, but also to assist the scientist with controlling animal-related variables that may confound the science. Figure 8.1 illustrates the many environmental factors that must be considered, including genetic, microbial, chemical, and physical. Control of genetic variables is primarily a matter of biology, but control of other variables is dependent to a significant degree on the design and management of the research animal facility and equipment. Environmental standards and design concepts for animal facilities are constantly evolving toward higher levels of performance with regards to controlling the animal's environment and operational efficiency.3 Properly designed and equipped facilities greatly facilitate effective management and consistent day-to-day animal care, which is required to optimally support animal research and testing. In spite of the many choices and wide berth for creativity in designing research animal facilities, the general research animal facility and caging standards have evolved to become well defined.4-7

There are a variety of ways to categorize facilities for housing laboratory animals. The three most common are addressed in this chapter — conventional, barrier, and containment facilities. For the sake of clarity, because these are not necessarily universally defined terms, they are defined here as follows:

Barrier (keep out) — Animal housing systems designed and managed to protect the animals from undesirable microbes.

Containment (keep in) — Animal housing systems designed and managed to contain experimental or naturally occurring hazards, e.g., biological, chemical, and radiation, in order to protect workers, other animals, and the general environment.

Conventional — Standard housing systems for laboratory animals that do not offer the added level of control provided by barrier and containment systems.

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