How does cage enrichment affect rodents?
In a room full of clinical veterinarians and animal-care technicians,
everybody is about to play a game. Gina Savastano,
a bubbly-voiced senior supervisor of facility operations at
Merck, explains the rules: Each of the 15 or 20 teams will
receive a species designation (monkey, mouse, rabbit, dog,
pig, rat), a piece of posterboard, a magic marker, and an
index card that describes a study using that species. The notes on the index cards describe experimental constraints—for example, as part of a study of the auditory system, the control condition requires complete silence. Teams will then have about 30 minutes to think up and draw some device or toy that improves the cage environment for the animals in a manner appropriate for each species—an activity that generally falls under the heading of
“enrichment.” Afterwards, judges attending this 1-day Boston
conference held last April on lab-animal enrichment (organized
by Savastano) will pick the best ideas.