Who is looking for the well-being of the animals?

Laboratory mice
Image: Universität Zürich

Animal welfare officers are appointed in most institutions in industry and academia.

They are responsible for implementing the 3Rs principles, and assist researchers with the planning of experiments or the improvement of testing methods, to help reduce the distress caused to the animals. Animal welfare officers provide guidance to those responsible, for example with respect to questions about the proper keeping of the animals. Furthermore, they monitor the individual experiments and the keeping of the animals, and review compliance with the permits and legal stipulations. The animal welfare officers in Switzerland are organised in a network, to enable an optimal exchange of experience and expertise throughout Switzerland.

Does anyone have the right to conduct animal experiments? And can they do whatever they please?

No. Anyone working with animals must attend special training tailored to their work and the type of animals used. This is clearly stipulated in the Animal Protection and Training Ordinance. It applies equally to animal keepers, laboratory technicians, those responsible for animal husbandry and to researchers and students. Moreover, these persons are required to undergo further training and to attend at least four days of continuing education within four years. The competent authorities are responsible for making sure that the continuing education requirement is fulfilled by everyone.

Do researchers know how to treat animals?

Anyone working with animals in experiments is required to attend training specific to each animal species. During this training, researchers learn about the behaviour of the species and how to treat the animals. If they intend to perform complicated procedures, they require additional training.

A researcher is authorised to perform only the experiments and procedures for which she or he has been trained. All institutions where animal experiments are being conducted must have access to a veterinary service or external veterinarians who can be called upon to provide medical care for the animals. If necessary, the veterinarians will perform procedures professionally themselves.