ACAPAC Policy Number: 1999-010
Policy Title: Use of Sedatives, Analgesics, and Anesthetics in Research Animals

Purpose: This policy is to provide guidance to researchers using animals, including rodents, that may experience more than momentary or slight pain or distress. Such animals require appropriate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia unless there are suitable scientific justifications to withhold such agents.


  1. Assessment of pain and distress in animals, including late-term fetuses, is difficult and can be subjective. As such, procedures that cause pain or distress in humans should be assumed to cause similar affects in animals, unless the contrary is established.
  2. The Attending Veterinarian and research animal veterinarians have the authority to ensure the provision of adequate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia.
  3. Investigators are strongly encouraged to consult with a research animal veterinarian during the course of protocol development concerning appropriate use of drugs for control of potential pain and distress. The proposed use of methods or agents to prevent or alleviate pain or distress in experimental animals must meet the approval of the veterinary staff.
  4. When animals may experience more than momentary or slight pain or distress (i.e., pain in excess of that caused by injections or other minor procedures), the investigator must provide, in the animal care and use protocol, a detailed description of how pain or distress will be assessed and how agents will be used to alleviate pain and distress. Nonpharmacologic control of pain may be effective and should not be overlooked as an element of perioperative care for animals.
  5. When animals undergo survival surgery, routine provision of post-surgical analgesia is required. If the investigator feels it necessary to withhold sedatives, analgesics, or anesthetics or deviate from the recommendations of the veterinary staff, the investigator must provide the ACUC, in the animal use protocol, a reasoned, scientific justification for this action. The justification should include the rationale or evidence that the agents would compromise the scientific aspects of the research protocol.
  6. The Animal Care and Use Committee (ACUC) has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that pain and distress in research animals is limited to that which is necessary in the course of approved experimentation.
  7. Management of pain in agricultural species used in agricultural research will be as per accepted agricultural standards, as described in facility standard operating procedures, or in herd protocols.


  • U.S. Government Principles for the Care and Use of Animals Used in Testing, Research, and Training, 1983
  • Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 8th Edition, NRC, 2011
  • Animal Welfare Regulations (9 CFR, chapter I, subchapter A)
  • USDA Animal Care Resource Guide Policy 11—Painful and Distressful Procedures

Author: R. Lane, J. Welter
ePublication Date: [12/14/1999] (orig.)
History: Amended 6/2008, 7/2015