Policy Number: 2011-042-v
Policy Title: Social Housing and Environmental Enrichment

Purpose: "Appropriate social interactions among members of the same species (conspecifics) are essential to normal development and well-being." "Single housing of social species should be the exception" [1].

“The primary aim of environmental enrichment is to enhance animal well-being by providing animals with sensory and motor stimulation, through structures and resources that facilitate the expression of species-typical behaviors and promote psychological well-being through physical exercise, manipulative activities, and cognitive challenges according to species-specific characteristics” [1]. The type of environmental enrichment offered to an animal depends on the species, life stage of the animal, compatibility with conspecifics, type of housing, space available, and research needs, and to a lesser extent on existing husbandry practices and other operational needs.

POLICY: In compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, Animal Welfare Regulations, and the 2011 Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals:

  • The default method of housing social animals (rodents, dogs, nonhuman primates, etc.) is with at least one other conspecific. Exceptions to this must be scientifically justified in an IACUC-approved protocol, or based on veterinary-related concerns.
  • Appropriate environmental enrichment must be provided in laboratory animal housing unless there is scientific justification––approved by an Animal Care and Use Committee––that precludes the use of enrichment materials or practices. All animal housing facilities must have a program of environmental enrichment for all species maintained in that facility. Social housing only, for most species, does not provide adequate environmental enrichment. The Attending Veterinarian and the Animal Care and Use Committee must review and approve this program regularly.

For more specific information, please refer to the "Animal Social Housing and Enrichment Requirements" (ASHER).


  1. Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources (U.S.) 2011. Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Author: J. Welter, RARC veterinary staff
ePublication Date: 9/9/2011
History: amended 9/2011, 11/2014