The Animal Welfare Assessment Grid (AWAG) system is a web-based software application designed for capturing, storing and visualising animal welfare assessment data. The system was developed by Public Health England in collaboration with the University of Surrey, School of Veterinary Medicine. The first version was released in 2015 and has been trialled by PHE and a number of other research organisations. Feedback has been very positive in terms of assessing current welfare and identifying areas for potential improvement such as housing, use of enrichment and frequency of applying procedures. During these trials and those from zoos and wildlife trusts, many ideas for future developments have been gathered. Further development is now required to refine the system and to make it applicable to a wider range of applications in the research community where the system has potential to improve animal welfare.
Assessment of animal welfare is essential, not only to meet legislative requirements for review of severity but also to identify areas where the experience of an animal can be improved in terms of environment or by refinement of experimental techniques, leading to less variable data from the use of less stressed animals. Ethical review bodies in the UK are required to assess projects both prospectively and retrospectively for application of the 3Rs but it is currently difficult to present meaningful data that can highlight areas where improvements have or potentially can be made.
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