Preventing Process Drift While Improving Animal Welfare: Impact of Procedures Improvement in a Cat Colony

Abstract

Process drift occurs when a procedure becomes altered as it is passed down through laboratory personnel. Reviewing and changing procedures can provide quality benefits and significantly improve processes and animal welfare. Quality benefits include reducing injury to staff members, increasing efficiency, and reducing stress. Our goal of this project was to allow for collection of multiple samples with improved efficiency without causing undue stress to the animals. Planning these new procedures included training and assessment of staff, reducing animal stressors, and procedure and husbandry modifications.  We then set milestones for completing each area of the new procedures. Implementing the new procedures began with the added use of temporary caging prior to blood collection, adjustments to husbandry scheduling, inventory of supplies needed in procedure rooms, adding the use of personal protective equipment (Tyvek lab coats, sleeves, and surgical face masks), assessments and training of staff, modifying restraint techniques, reducing animal stressors, and implementing targeted socialization. The results from continual improvement of this procedure exceeded expectations. By tracking the time spent and number of employees and the number of animals that were being used on procedures, we were able to then accurately track the average amount of time spent obtaining a sample and the average total amount of employee time spent on procedures daily. The total time spent on blood collection was reduced by approximately 70% and the total minutes spent per cat were reduced by 49%. It was also discovered that these simple minor improvements to our procedures also improved overall animal welfare, reduced animal stress, and influenced better behavior from our cat colony. An additional benefit to the new procedures was the subsequent decrease in injury to staff members. It was identified that injury involving staff members had been increasing over the past few years. With the implemented changes, we have been able to decrease the number of cat-related injuries by 100% to date. Due to results from the added processes, there has also been an unexpected improvement in technical conduct confidence and morale among staff members.

Authors

Bilyu, A., Jacquin, A., Bouchard, G.F.

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