How we work

The University of Bristol’s Animal Services Unit (ASU) provides facilities, services and advice for all scientists within the University who need to carry out research involving animals. The ASU is one of the University’s Professional Services, and reports to the Deputy-Vice Chancellor and Establishment Licence Holder, Professor Guy Orpen.

The Animal Services Unit

The ASU are a team of dedicated animal technicians and veterinary surgeons employed to look after the laboratory animals used for regulated scientific procedures at the University. We are specialists trained in the husbandry and welfare of the different species we care for.

ASU staff purchase animals from specially-chosen commercial suppliers. We arrange for animals to be carefully transported to our animal facilities where they are settled into their new environment before studies start.

The ASU works together with researchers to ensure the welfare of animals while they are being studied. At the end of each study, the animals are usually euthanised by trained staff according to current good practice, often to provide important tissue samples required for further research.

Animals we care for and work with

The animals we house depend on the research we are carrying out. They are mostly rodents and fish. Sometimes, owners who visit our veterinary practice agree to their pets taking part in research to help improve veterinary treatments for companion animals. For more details see our Areas we study page.

Our facilities

All ASU facilities provide an environment and housing appropriate for the species being looked after. Typically animals are housed in cages or pens filled with bedding and nesting materials in addition to play items to encourage natural behaviours. Animals are usually housed in groups to allow for normal social interaction and cages are cleaned and changed frequently to maintain a healthy living environment.

Our flagship research facility is one of the University’s newest buildings and is unique in the UK and Europe. It is a large animal research hospital operating to NHS, Home Office and Good Laboratory Practice Monitoring Authority standards and including state-of-the-art equipment. It enables the validation of new biomedical devices, medical procedures and drugs before proceeding directly to first-in-man and first-in-companion-animal trials.

The support we provide

The ASU also offers legal and ethical advice to researchers via our Animal Welfare and Ethics Review Body (AWERB). AWERB helps to ethically review scientific programmes of research, promote the 3Rs, provide training to new researchers and support best practice. Our Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS) and Named Animal Care and Welfare Officers (NACWOs) are actively engaged in monitoring the health and welfare of laboratory species at the University on a day-to-day basis. ASU staff sometimes also get involved in specific scientific procedures (such as blood sampling) to support our researchers.

Image credit: University of Bristol
Image credit: University of Bristol
Image credit: University of Bristol
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