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Animal technologist: Job description

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An animal technologist is responsible for the care and welfare of laboratory animals used in medical, veterinary and dental research. Some technologists are also directly involved in experimental work.

Approximately, 3.5 million animals (over three-quarters of which are rodents) are used in scientific procedures in the UK each year. The different requirements of each species and each set of experiments means the working environment varies considerably.

The use of animals in scientific procedures is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which recognises the necessity for research involving animals but demands a high level of animal welfare protection.

Typical work activities

Animal technologists are in daily contact with animals, and much of the work involves routine tasks essential to the care and welfare of the animals.

Tasks often involve:

  • cleaning cages, pens, trays, equipment and fittings;
  • feeding and watering animals;
  • handling and moving animals safely;
  • administering medicines;
  • checking the environment (for example, temperature and humidity);
  • monitoring the condition of animals and recognising and resolving any behavioural problems;
  • obtaining samples and measurements;
  • collecting and recording data;
  • ensuring animals are kept clean and comfortable.

Technologists may be involved in designing studies and setting the conditions and protocols that will provide scientists with the information required. They need to understand the physical, behavioural and environmental requirements of individual species and be able to predict and interpret the animals' responses.

Experienced technologists help to breed animals especially for use in research. They monitor pregnancies, care for newborn animals and measure weight gain and growth. Technologists also play a key role in selecting animals for studies as well as carrying out and developing dosing, assessment and sampling techniques. Some understanding of the science supporting individual studies is required in such cases.

Research with animals in the UK takes place under strict legal controls and technologists are responsible for ensuring all legislation is adhered to. According to Lantra: The Sector Skills Council for the Environmental and Land-based Sector , the introduction of the European Directive 86/609/EEC from 2013 to 2017 will probably have an impact on the training and skills needed in animal technology and may demand greater investment in facilities and equipment.

Written by AGCAS editors
October 2012

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