Search for Alternatives


From: Animal Care Resource Guide Policies USDA, AC (2011)

“The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations require principal investigators to consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to the animals and provide a written narrative of the methods used and sources consulted to determine the availability of alternatives, including refinements, reductions, and replacements.”

The research study protocol requires justification of certain items including animal species and number, use of non-pharmaceutical grade reagents, and others. A very specific requirement is placed on the justification for any pain or distress experienced as a part of the research design. This page is aimed at providing guidance on how to perform the search for alternatives to procedures that may cause pain or distress.


The IACUC advocates the use of animal alternatives as described by the 3 Rs, specifically

  1. REPLACEMENT of animals when possible,
  2. REDUCTION of in the animal numbers used, and
  3. REFINEMENT of the animal procedures to minimize discomfort as much as possible

We also believe in a fourth R -- RESPONSIBILITY

“How to” sites for alternative approaches:

  1. Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (Johns Hopkins University)
    (Discussions of the 3Rs, refinement for rats and mice, information on alternative searches, links to databases, and specific search templates.)

  2. Fund for the Replacements of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME)
    (Guides for conducting alternative searches including information on search terms and strategies as well as links to databases.)

  3. Alternative Methodologies (Animal Welfare Information Center)
    (Guides for conducting alternative searches including information on search terms and strategies as well as links to databases.)

Databases for conducting alternative searches:

  1. Alternatives to Animal Testing on the Web - AltWeb (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health)
    (Information on alternative searches AND a search engine specifically designed to search for alternatives to animal procedures.

  2. Animal Welfare Information Centers (USDA National Agricultural Library)
    (Established under the 1985 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, this office provides information on how to do alternative searches as well as access to various databases (e.g., Agricola). The office may also be contacted to perform an alternative search for you.)

  3. NLM Specialized Information Services (National Library of Medicine)
    (This site provides access to databases such as MEDLINE/PubMed and TOXNET.)

Other informational Resources:

  1. Norwegian Reference Center for Laboratory Animal Science & Alternatives - NORINA
    (Information on alternatives to animal use in teaching and research methodologies)

  2. ECVAM: European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods
    (Provides access to the SIS - Scientific Information Service - databases on advanced alternative methods to animal experiments in biomedical sciences.)

  3. The Netherlands Centre - Alternatives to Animal Use
    (For the development, validation, and application of alternatives to animal experiments in the Netherlands.)


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