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Animal welfare at our university

We, the University of Cologne, are convinced that animal welfare-friendly handling of laboratory animals is crucial component of good scientific practice. In order to be able to work at the highest level in research and teaching, the avoidance of stress, pain and suffering for the laboratory animal is an essential basis. In accordance with the 3R Principle, each researcher is obliged to reduce the number of animal tests (replacement), laboratory animals (reduction) and their stress levels (refinement) to an absolute minimum. The main focus is on the use of alternative methods. In addition to the aforementioned 3R Principle, all employees of the University of Cologne assume the special responsibility required for the handling of animals (responsibility).

The following gives you measures on how to implement the above principles:


  • In order to make the best possible use of the tissue already obtained in animal tests and to generate a maximum gain of knowledge from as few animals as possible, unused tissue samples are transferred (so-called organ sharing).
  • When breeding laboratory animals according to needs, it is imperative that as few animals as possible are born that cannot be used in experiments.
  • Before killing any animal that cannot be used in breeding or other experimental projects, it must be checked whether another working group can use that animal. In addition, so-called wild rodents, i.e. rodents without genetic modification, are to be used to feed other animals.
  • High-resolution imaging techniques (e.g. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET)) allow scientists to examine the course of diseases in a small number of animals in a minimally invasive manner instead of individual examinations on many animals, so that the number of animals can be reduced.
  • The Institute of Medical Statistics and Bioinformatics (IMSB) offers statistical advice on the design of experiments in order to request the number of animals used in experiments to be as low as possible, but also as high as scientifically necessary.


  • We offer our own laboratory animal courses to acquire the expertise in order to be able to carry out and plan animal experiments or animal experiments on rodents.
  • All persons involved in animal experiments receive training courses with up-to-date information on the application and implementation of the 3R Principle and animal welfare-friendly handling.

  • For persons who have acquired their expertise on carrying out animal tests abroad, a postgraduate course is mandatory. The necessary German and/or University of Cologne-specific basics of laboratory animal science are learnt. This ensures that, in the spirit of good scientific practice, new scientists get to knouw and implement the standards of animal welfare that we apply.
  • Enrichment (material to stimulate them) is offered to all laboratory animals provided that it has no negative influence on the animals and/or the results of the test. Rodents, for example, receive nesting material and houses to keep them occupied, and pigs receive toys such as balls and chains to play with. Animals that are not used directly for a test are provided with additional materials to stimulate them such as exercise wheels.
  • In order to standardize procedures and to ensure our quality standard, so-called Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) on various animal experiments/procedures, the handling of animals and the daily animal control have been developed. These will be made available to our staff working with laboratory animals.
  • Our staff working with lab animals are advised both in planning and in implementation by a team of veterinarians.


  • All demonstrations within the framework of the laboratory animal science courses are offered as a video demonstration, whereby the number of animals used for teaching is actively reduced.
  • Where possible, animal-free alternative methods are used in research, e.g. 3D cell culture or organoid models.
  • All animals are regularly examined (at least 4 times per year) in addition to the daily checks at the so-called hygiene tests for bacteria, viruses and parasites. This check-up  is essential for keeping the animals healthy, but also crucial for the validity and reproducibility of test results. Traditionally, livestock (so-called Sentinel species) are killed and examined on behalf of the colony. Wherever possible, we use animal-free alternatives during regular hygiene tests.


  • Our university and its employees are committed to a responsible and dignified approach to the animals we use in their “Guidelines of the University of Cologne on the Handling of Animals in Research and Teaching”.
  • The process description ‘Procedures for breeding and killing snimals’ governs the general procedures for the need-based breeding and killing of animals for all employees.We pursue an open and transparent communication policy and advocate an objective dialogue on the use of animals in scientific research and teaching.
  • We support the initiative ‘Transparent Animal Experiments’ by Tierversuche verstehen and the permanent Senate Commission on Animal Protection and Experimentation of the German Research Foundation (DFG) with the participation of the Alliance of Science Organisations.
  • Both the animal welfare officers and the persons responsible for animal husbandry carry out regular inspections to ensure quality assurance and to optimize animal welfare.
  • Only persons who have the required expertise and have received the necessary instructions have access to the respective livestock husbandry. A corresponding user agreement is used for internal control to comply with our quality standards.
  • Our staff working with laboratory animals receive regular information from the office of the animal welfare officer regarding updates, animal welfare aspects and further training seminars.
  • Killing of animals without authorization must normally ‘approvedֹ’ within the institute in accordance with Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act, with the involvement of the animal welfare officers and the competent veterinary office (so-called Section 4 duty of disclosure). This is to control animal welfare-compliant, needs-oriented planning and carrying out of the killing.