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Animal Welfare Assessments

Animal welfare assessments are a critical component of an institution’s animal program. A welfare assessment involves examining the animals to ensure good health and well-being as well as monitoring for any signs of pain, distress, or suffering. The Animal Welfare Act requires that daily observations of the animals are made (9 CFR § 2.33 (b)(3)(2022)). To complete a welfare assessment, welfare indicators should be identified and established in protocols for the species that you’re working with, so personnel can adequately assess the animals. Learn more about assessing animal welfare and using species-specific welfare indicators.

Welfare Assessment Training and Resources

CCAC Guidelines: Animal Welfare Assessment

Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). 

CCAC's 2021 guidelines define why we assess welfare, identify welfare indicators, and explain welfare assessment documentation.

Welfare Assessment

National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

NC3Rs provides information about identifying welfare indicators, assessing and reporting actual severity, effective record keeping and review, and staff training.

Guide to Welfare Assessment Protocols

U.K. Joint Working Group on Refinement.

This guide discusses defining and implementing protocols for the welfare assessment of laboratory animals.

Literature on Welfare Assessment and Indicators

Below are basic searches for literature on welfare assessments and welfare indicators. If you want to find literature on these topics for a certain species, you can build upon these search strings by including animal search terms. For example, edit the search and include "(mice OR mouse OR mus OR murine)" to find welfare assessments and indicators for mice. To learn more about building search strings, visit AWIC's alternatives literature searching page or if you need help finding information, contact us

Grimace Scales

Grimace scales are scoring systems used to assess pain in animals by evaluating different areas of the face and body posture. You can use the basic searches below to find literature on grimace scales for different species. 

Species-specific Grimace Scales

Animal welfare experts continue to develop grimace scales for various species. Grimace scales are currently available for a number of animals including laboratory animals, farm animals, pets, and wildlife. 

View Available Grimace Scales
  • View mouse grimace scale
  • View rat grimace scale 
  • View rabbit grimace scale 
  • View cat grimace scale 
  • View horse grimace scale 
  • View cow grimace scale 
  • View piglet grimace scale 
  • View sheep/lamb grimace scale 
  • View ferret grimace scale 
  • View seal grimace scale 

Other Web Resources

Macaques: Welfare Assessment

National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

This site provides a comprehensive welfare assessment scheme which includes "multiple measurements including behavioral indicators, physiological indicators, and health indicators such as clinical signs."

Zoo Animal Welfare Assessments

Wild Welfare.

Wild Welfare's assessments are "designed to identify welfare concerns within a zoo and their source or origin. The assessment can be used as a monitoring and evaluation tool and we can use it to generate recommendations for improvements."

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