Guidelines on severity assessment and classification of genetically altered mouse and rat lines


  • A. Zintzsch
  • E. Noe
  • M. Reissmann
  • K. Ullmann
  • S. Kraemer
  • B. Jerchow
  • R. Kluge
  • C. Goesele
  • H. Nickles
  • A. Puppe
  • T. Ruelicke


  • Laboratory Animals


  • Lab Anim 51 (6): 573-582


  • Genetic alterations can unpredictably compromise the wellbeing of animals. Thus, more or less harmful phenotypes might appear in the animals used in research projects even when they are not subjected to experimental treatments. The severity classification of suffering has become an important issue since the implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Accordingly, the breeding and maintenance of genetically altered (GA) animals which are likely to develop a harmful phenotype has to be authorized. However, a determination of the degree of severity is rather challenging due to the large variety of phenotypes. Here, the Working Group of Berlin Animal Welfare Officers (WG Berlin AWO) provides field-tested guidelines on severity assessment and classification of GA rodents. With a focus on basic welfare assessment and severity classification we provide a list of symptoms that have been classified as non-harmful, mild, moderate or severe burdens. Corresponding monitoring and refinement strategies as well as specific housing requirements have been compiled and are strongly recommended to improve hitherto applied breeding procedures and conditions. The document serves as a guide to determine the degree of severity for an observed phenotype. The aim is to support scientists, animal care takers, animal welfare bodies and competent authorities with this task, and thereby make an important contribution to a European harmonization of severity assessments for the continually increasing number of GA rodents.