ACAPAC Policy Number: 1999-010
Policy Title: Use of Sedatives, Analgesics, and Anesthetics in Laboratory Animals (agricultural animals used in agricultural research are excluded)

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 has the authority to ensure the provision of adequate sedation, analgesia, or anesthesia.
  3. In order to expedite protocol review, investigators are strongly encouraged to consult with the veterinary staff during the course of protocol planning to reach agreement concerning appropriate use of drugs for control of potential pain and distress.
  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.
  5. When animals are subjected to major survival surgery, routine provision of postsurgical 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 proposed use of methods or agents to prevent or alleviate pain or distress in experimental animals must meet the approval of the veterinary staff. Investigators are strongly encouraged to consult with the veterinary staff as needed to arrive at appropriate methods of treatment that meet the clinical needs of the animals and do not compromise the scientific integrity of the experiments.
  7. 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.


  • 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, NRC, 1996
  • Animal Welfare Regulations (9 CFR, chapter I, subchapter A)
  • USDA Policy 1-Painful Procedures

Author: R. Lane, J. Welter
ePublication Date: 12/14/1999
History: Amended 6/2008