Laboratory Animal Science & Enrichment
The outlook for professionals in laboratory animal science is excellent, positions are expected to grow faster than average for the next decade. Salaries will continue to be significantly higher in the laboratory animal field relative to the average for all animal care workers.
Technicians and behaviorists are widely employed in industry, government and academic institutions.
Who hires laboratory animal scientists?
Who needs to understand laboratory animal behavior?
- Laboratory animal technicians
- Enrichment specialists
- Research technicians
- Animal facility managers
- Animal care technicians
- Safety assessment technicians
- Training and enrichment coordinators
- Research biologists
- Veterinary technicians
Laboratory Animal Technicians
Laboratory animal technicians realize that outstanding animal care includes attention to animals' mental and emotional well-being. Technical personnel are charged with providing enrichment. However, a fuller knowledge and understanding of enrichment strategies allows the staff to play a fuller role in the design of the overall program. Technicians are not just the providers of enrichment, they are also in the best position to assess its impact, suggest changes, and maximize the effectiveness of any existing enrichment program.
Veterinarians & Veterinary Technicians
The connection between mental and physical health has already been well documented in both people and animals. Veterinary staff is focused on health and preventive medicine and thus are a key component to enrichment programs. Proper enrichment reduces stress and facilitates quality care. Veterinarians and their technical staff review and oversee existing programs and any suggested changes. The facility veterinarian is best positioned to determine how enrichment can be employed while avoiding toxins, injury, airway obstructions, and all potential health & safety hazards. A full knowledge of enrichment goals and strategies can help staff to improve overall animal health.
Investigators are sometimes concerned that enrichment may introduce additional variables into a study. However, as long as enrichment is established before the experiments begin there is no reason to believe that confounding variables will be introduced. In fact, the decrease in stress and maladaptive behaviors that typically accompanies enrichment suggests that lab animals become better study animals when they receive appropriate enrichment. With a proper understanding of animal enrichment, researchers will be able to enrich laboratory animals without affecting results or compromising experimental design. Indeed, due to inadequate assessment, there are many opportunities for research in the field of enrichment itself. Good behavioral management must address three key components for every animal: the physical environment, the social environment, and the opportunity for physical and mental challenges.
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