2015 Webinar: Identifying and Preventing Distress in Laboratory Animals

Overview | Faculty | Certificates | Recording Information


Is your institution equipped to diagnose and prevent distress in the animals used for research purposes?

Stress and distress can negatively impact the welfare of laboratory animals and have adverse consequences for research. Minimizing distress in animals is mandated by federal regulations and remains an ethical obligation for research and compliance staff. To take measures to minimize distress, it is essential to understand its causes and manifestations among the various species of laboratory animals. Planning to reduce or prevent distress should be included in the initial design and review of research projects.

This webinar provided strategies for determining when laboratory animals are experiencing distress through observing their behavior. Presenters described behaviors indicative of distress as they are manifested in different species and recommended methods for minimizing or preventing the development of behaviors such as barbering, self-injurious behavior, stereotyped behavior, self-licking, and hair plucking. Anticipating likely stress-related responses as study procedures are designed and protocols are reviewed is an important method for minimizing stress experienced by laboratory animals.

Topics for discussion included:

  • Manifestations of stress-related behaviors across species, including: monkeys, rats, mice, dogs, and pigs
  • Anticipating stress associated with research proposals and procedures such as social isolation or individual housing, restraint, and biological sample collection
  • Preventing or mitigating distress by means of positive reinforcement training, selection of animals more able to cope with anticipated stress, social buffering, and counterconditioning

What will I learn?
After viewing this webinar, you will be able to:

  • Detect species-specific signs of distress in laboratory animals
  • Identify research procedures likely to lead to distress in laboratory animals
  • Understand how to prevent or minimize distress in animals through positive reinforcement training, subject selection, and social buffering

Who should attend?
This advanced-level webinar benefited institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) members, chairs, and staff, as well as investigators and research staff working with rodents, monkeys, and other research mammals.


Mollie BloomsmithMollie A. Bloomsmith, PhD, currently serves as the head of behavioral management at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. She supervises the enrichment, socialization, and animal training programs at Yerkes, and serves on Emory’s IACUC. Previously Dr. Bloomsmith held positions that focused on similar work at Zoo Atlanta and at the MD Anderson Cancer Center site in Bastrop, Texas. For more than 30 years Dr. Bloomsmith’s interests have been in applying the scientific method to assess the well-being of captive primates and to utilize these scientific findings to enhance their care.

Dr. Bloomsmith is the chair of the primate care committee of the American Society of Primatologists, a founding board member of Chimp Haven (a chimpanzee sanctuary), and has also served on the editorial boards of three welfare journals. She supervises graduate students studying primate well-being, teaches workshops on the behavioral management of primates, and is a frequent speaker at professional conferences. She has published more than 125 articles related to the behavioral management of animals in laboratories and in zoos. Dr. Bloomsmith earned her PhD in experimental psychology from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1987, and her BS in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis, in 1982.

Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson, DVM, DACLAM, is the veterinary behaviorist in the division of veterinary resources at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Hutchinson’s primary research experience and interests are the behavioral and physiological consequences of laboratory environments for research animals, and how those may impact experiments. His projects have included examining the biological correlates and treatment of self-injurious behavior in rhesus macaques, testing pharmacologic and behavioral interventions to facilitate social introductions of nonhuman primates, and validating conventional and novel tests of animal well-being. He has also conducted clinical research into the diagnosis and treatment of wasting syndrome in marmosets and chronic diarrhea in macaques.

Dr. Hutchinson studied English and psychology at Georgetown University, then worked as an animal behavior and enrichment specialist at the NIH Division of Veterinary Resources for four years before attending veterinary school at Colorado State University, where he worked as the enrichment coordinator for laboratory animal resources and conducted research on the effects of typical cage enrichments on the physiology and behavior of mice. He completed the laboratory animal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and became a diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine in 2012.

Certificates of Attendance

Certificates of attendance are available at the conclusion of the webinar. To access the certificate, you must first complete the online evaluation. Such certificates are useful for obtaining continuing education (CE) credits (not Continuing Medical Education credits) from professional associations. Note that guidelines concerning CE credits may differ, and you should consult the appropriate professional association representative for further guidance.

If you would like to receive a certificate of attendance for a previous PRIM&R educational program, please email info@primr.org or call 617.423.4112, ext. 0.