Benefits of tunnel handling persist for laboratory mice after additional procedures

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Millions of mice are used every year for scientific research, representing the majority of scientific procedures conducted on animals. The standard method used to pick-up laboratory mice is known as tail handling and involves the capture, elevation and restraint of mice via their tails. There is growing evidence that, compared to tunnel handling, tail handling increases physiological and behavioural signs of anxiety and stress, and induces anhedonia; hence it probably has a negative impact on mouse welfare. Despite this, tunnel handling is yet to be implemented widely across laboratories. To determine the possible reasons for this, we designed a thematic survey to gather feedback on the obstacles and barriers that may be preventing more widespread use of tunnel handling by researchers and other animal care staff. In addition, we investigated whether additional scruff handling and minor procedures negated the reduction in anxiety-related behaviour in tunnel compared with tail handled mice. Even in relatively stress-prone BALB/c mice, tunnel handling caused a substantial reduction in anxiety compared with tunnel handling, regardless of whether the mice also experienced scruff handling or injection. This suggests that the welfare benefits of tunnel handling are widely applicable and not diminished by the use of other putatively more invasive procedures that are frequently used in the laboratory. We discuss these results and those of the thematic survey with regard to their welfare implications and potential for improving scientific outcomes.
Held atUniversities Federation for Animal Welfare, The Old School, Brewhouse Hill, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire AL4 8AN.
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • NC3Rs
  • Behaviour
  • laboratory animal
  • welfare