Biomedical Research at Strathclyde

Research involving animals has made, and continues to make a vital contribution to understanding, treating and curing many major 21st century health problems, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illness. New methods have enabled scientists and medical researchers to reduce work involving animals, but some animal studies must continue for further progress in science and medicine.

Scientists working with animals at the University of Strathclyde must meet high ethical standards and adhere to strict legislation that safeguards animal welfare in the UK.

Research programmes at the University of Strathclyde strive to be of the highest quality and only use animals when there are no alternatives. This research is carried out using specialised facilities and expertise. The excellent culture of care is underpinned by a commitment to the principles of the 3R's: Reduction, Refinement and Replacement.

The welfare of all animals used in biomedical research at the University of Strathclyde is of paramount importance to everyone involved.

The Unit Manager is responsible to the Establishment Licence Holder for the day-to-day care of all animals held within its research facilities. She is the senior Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer (NACWO). NACWOs ensure that the highest standards of husbandry and care are in place. 24hr veterinary support is provided by the Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS) and a team of professional, qualified animal technicians monitor animal welfare in the facilities.

The University of Strathclyde has procedures in place, including veterinary cover and a comprehensive call out system, to ensure that any welfare concern is dealt with as quickly as possible.

Animal care and housing follows the requirements of the Home Office Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals used in Scientific Procedures.  Environmental enrichment such as play tunnels or bedding material are widely used to keep animals both active and comfortable.

All animals are checked frequently and at least once daily either by animal technicians,  the NACWOs and/or the NVS to ensure that they are in good health.

Animal technicians are specialists in the care of animals. They are trained in correct animal handling, in husbandry and in the recognition of signs of pain, distress and disease. Animal technicians are encouraged to undertake professional qualifications awarded by the Institute of Animal Technology, and continued professional development (this includes attending research seminars, meetings and reading of relevant literature)  to further their knowledge and skills.



Photographs of animals housed in the unit. 

All licenced establishments must ensure they have an Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB).

The AWERB also has other remits such as:

  • Advise staff dealing with animals in the licensed establishment on matters related to the welfare of the animals, their acquisition, accommodation, care and use;
  • Advise on the application of the 3Rs and relevant technical and scientific developments;
  • Establish and review management and operational processes for monitoring, reporting and follow-up in relation to the welfare of animals housed or used in the licensed establishment;
  • Follow the development and outcome of projects carried out in the establishment, taking into account the effect on the animals used; and to identify and advise on elements that could further contribute to the 3Rs; and
  • Advise on re-homing schemes, including the appropriate socialisation of the animals to be re-homed - in 2016, we re-homed several rodents as pets.
The AWERB involves individuals from a variety of backgrounds, including vets, animal welfare officers, scientists and lay people.

The AWERB will critically assess Project Licence applications and any request for research involving animals that is not covered by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.  The AWERB considers many different areas when assessing applications. These include the scientific benefit of the work weighed against the cost to the animals involved, the application of the 3R's (Reduction, Refinement and Replacement) in the proposed work and also the facilities and expertise that are available at the establishment.

The AWERB will then provide constructive feedback to the applicant along with any recommendations they feel appropriate regarding the programme of work. Any comments/recommendations must be addressed by the applicant to the satisfaction of the AWERB before the application is approved.

Any scientist who wishes to us animal in Biomedical Research must write a project license which justifies the work.

All of our AWERB application forms and report templates are saved in the AWERB library on the Faculty of Science Sharepoint site. Click here to access the Sharepoint site

The Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986

This Act regulates the use of protected animals in any experimental or other scientific procedure which may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to the animal. Protected animals under the Act are any living veterbrae other than man and any living cephalopod.

It is an underlying principle of the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 that animals bred, supplied and used for scientific procedures are cared for in accordance with the best standards of modern animal husbandry.

Animals must be purchased from recognised sources.

The regulated procedures covered by this Act are controlled using a triple licensing system enforced by the Home Office.

Guidance on the operation of the Act can be found on the Home Office website.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006

This Act updates the Protection of Animals 1911 Act.  It details (in section 9) the duty to ensure animal welfare and to take all reasonable steps to ensure an animals needs are met to the extent required by good practice.

If an individual does not have appropriate licence authorities in place under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, then the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 may apply.

The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

This specifies that only a qualified veterinary surgeon registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) can carry out acts of veterinary surgery in the UK. This includes diagnosis, medical and surgical treatments, and the performance of surgical operations.

Surgical procedures carried out for scientific purposes are not covered by this Act. Anyone wishing to conduct such procedures must have undertaken the appropriate Home Office approved training and have appropriate licence authority under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

Prescription only medicines for the treatment of animals must be controlled by a veterinary surgeon. This also applies to treatment required for animals used in scientific procedures.

Before any work involving animals can be carried out by the establishment, researchers and unit staff must ensure that all legal requirements as set out in The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 are met. Find out more:

The establishment/building in which the work is carried out must have an Establishment Licence issued by the Home Office. This is a schedule of premises that details the areas in which work involving animals can be carried out. The areas listed on the Establishment Licence each have a specified use and must meet the standards set out in the Code of Practice. Details of which can be found on the Home Office Website

The Establishment Licence also identifies the following individuals:

  • The Named Person Responsible for Compliance (NCO)
  • Named Animal Care and Welfare Officers (NACWO)
  • Named Veterinary Surgeons (NVS)
  • Named Training and Competence Officers (NTCO)
  • Named Information Officers (NIO)

The Establishment Licence in itself is not enough to allow work involving animals to be carried out. It only covers the areas in which the work will be taking place. In order for any work to take place researcher workers must undertake appropriate education and training and have in place both a project licence and a personal licence issued by the Home Office.


The University of Strathclyde conducts world class research that addresses global issues and challenges. This research includes areas of human and veterinary medicine that are of importance to us all. These areas include diseases of the elderly, cancer, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, MS, vaccine production and drug delivery.

The University is actively engaged in the development of a number of alternative methods such as computer modelling, tissue culture, cell and molecular biology, and research with human subjects. This is reflected in the many different approaches that are involved in the research programmes including the use of in vitro and computer modelling. However, it is also recognised that the complexity of both man and animals cannot always be fully replicated by alternative systems and therefore the use of animals is still required to meet specific research objectives.

The University is committed to the principles of the 3Rs of reduction, refinement and replacement. For each project it ensures, as far as is reasonably practicable, that no alternative to the use of animals is possible, that the number of animals used is minimised and that procedures, care routines and husbandry are refined to maximise welfare.

This process is undertaken by The University's Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB). This body involves lay representation plus external and internal members. It provides advice on the application of the 3Rs, matters relating to the welfare and care of animals, management and operational processes within facilities and the suitability of project proposals and subsequent review.

All work involving vertebrate animals conducted by the University of Strathclyde is considered by our AWERB.

Where regulated procedures are carried out, ASPA licence authority, issued by the Home Office, is required. The detailed conditions which apply to the programme of work covered in the project licence, the conduct of personal licence holders undertaking procedures and to the standards of accommodation, care and welfare required in the establishment licence must all be adhered to.

The welfare of animals is a primary concern of the University. It therefore expects that such work is conducted to the highest standards, meeting or exceeding the legal requirements and associated guidance issued by the Home Office. All involved must undertake appropriate education, training, supervision and competency assessment before undertaking procedures with animals. The importance of our moral and legal obligations underpins our culture of care and compliance.

The University of Strathclyde fully supports and endorses the ARRIVE guidelines developed by the NC3Rs, to improve the design and reporting of studies involving animals. The ARRIVE guidelines are actively promoted by the AWERB for use by licence applicants; during training courses and within research group seminars.

The University fully endorses the guidance given by the UK’s major funding bodies in terms of their expectations for research involving animals:

The University recognises that high standards of animal welfare contribute to good scientific outcomes and this policy helps ensure that new knowledge acquired will ultimately benefit mankind and, in the case of veterinary research, other animals.

The University is a signtatory of the Concordat for Openness

  • Commitment 1: We will be clear about when, how and why we use animals in research. Demonstrated by the current project information on the website
    *numbers lower due to covid-19 and the lack of access to laboratories
  • Commitment 2: We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals
  • Commitment 3: We will be proactive in providing opportunities for the public to find out about research using animals. strathclyde researchers undertake school presentations
  • Commitment 4: We will report on progress annually and share our experiences

How many animals are used?

Figures below, show numbers of animals that completed procedures, as declared to the Home since 2016.

Species 20172018 2019 2020202120222023
Mice 7518 6329 5357 3253 2774 3176 2266
Rats 100 63 163 94 327 291 230
Hamsters 11 18 39 17 56 8 4
Jirds 26 24 7 4 5 0 7
Zebra fish 82 376 0 0 0 0 0
Total 7742 6810 5566 3368 3162 3475 2507

These are some photos of animals that have been re-homed.

We have posters up on entry to the unit and if we find we have small numbers of animals that will not be used in ongoing research, we have a re-homing policy and generally re-home several hamsters and rats every year.

We do not just re-home to anyone, please contact the University for more information