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. Until now, this has been a largely qualitative process relying on researchers, veterinarians and animal technicians making and recording observations of welfare throughout the animals’ lifetime experience. This is a subjective process and results in variable assessment between individuals which could lead to discrepancies in identifying welfare issues.
AWAG is a unique software system for assessing the lifetime experience of individual or groups of animals. It allows welfare to be quantified and to be presented in a graphical way that is consistent and easily understood, highlighting key events that affect well-being and where improvements to animal welfare can be made. By combining retrospective and prospective analysis of welfare, AWAG can assist in making difficult quality of life decisions about an animal or group of animals. It provides indicators on how the well-being of animals can be improved and demonstrates to regulators, ethical review bodies, funders, journal editors and the public that a proactive approach is being taken and that effective action is resulting in the delivery of improved husbandry and care.
The system has been used successfully for assessing animal welfare in both research and zoological settings. PHE is now keen to work with partners to trial the AWAG software in diverse operational environments and provide advice and feedback to support refinement of the system. No specific skills are required to use the software but local ICT support may be required to install it, though PHE can provide assistance here if required. PHE is also seeking software and app development expertise to evolve the system and improve usability.
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