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Guide for the Care and use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition
additional opportunities for activity by being walked on a leash, having access to a run, or being moved into areas for social contact, play, or exploration (Wolff and Rupert 1991). Loafing areas, exercise lots, and pastures are suitable for large farm animals, such as sheep, horses, and cattle.
Social Environment Appropriate social interactions among members of the same species (conspecifics) are essential to normal development and wellbeing (Bayne et al. 1995; Hall 1998; Novak et al. 2006). When selecting a suitable social environment, attention should be given to whether the animals are naturally territorial or communal and whether they should be housed singly, in pairs, or in groups. An understanding of species-typical natural social behavior (e.g., natural social composition, population density, ability to disperse, familiarity, and social ranking) is key to successful social housing.
Not all members of a social species are necessarily socially compatible. Social housing of incompatible animals can induce chronic stress, injury, and even death. In some species, social incompatibility may be sex biased; for example, male mice are generally more prone to aggression than female mice, and female hamsters are generally more aggressive than male hamsters. Risks of social incompatibility are greatly reduced if the animals to be grouped are raised together from a young age, if group composition remains stable, and if the design of the animals’ enclosure and their environmental enrichment facilitate the avoidance of social conflicts. Social stability should be carefully monitored; in cases of severe or prolonged aggression, incompatible individuals need to be separated.
For some species, developing a stable social hierarchy will entail antagonistic interactions between pair or group members, particularly for animals introduced as adults. Animals may have to be introduced to each other over a period of time and should be monitored closely during this introductory period and thereafter to ensure compatibility.
Single housing of social species should be the exception and justified based on experimental requirements or veterinary-related concerns about animal well-being. In these cases, it should be limited to the minimum period necessary, and where possible, visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile contact with compatible conspecifics should be provided. In the absence of other animals, enrichment should be offered such as positive interaction with the animal care staff and additional enrichment items or addition of a companion animal in the room or housing area. The need for single housing should be reviewed on a regular basis by the IACUC and veterinarian.
Procedural Habituation and Training of Animals Habituating animals to routine husbandry or experimental procedures should be encouraged whenever possible as it may assist the animal to better cope with a captive environment by reducing stress associated with novel procedures or people.