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Animals in Research: Searching Alternatives : Getting Started


The United States Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regulations require that Principal Investigators consider alternatives to procedures that may cause more than momentary or slight pain or distress to animals. This guide provides information and links to additional resources to help you conduct a thorough literature search to discover ways to reduce, refine, or replace the use of USDA-regulated species in research. You may find more information in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Peruse this guide to:

Consider contacting a librarian to discuss your search.  A librarian can help you choose the best databases to search, develop a search strategy, save your searches, and more.


Mousebase@Duke is a user-populated catalog of research mouse model strains used and maintained by Duke investigators, enabling investigators to access existing models for increased research efficiency.

USDA Non-regulated Species

Although it is NOT necessary to search for animal alternatives for:

mice, rats, fish, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians or birds

it is still recommended that you consider the 3 R's--outlined below--in planning your research.

You may also want to review the Duke IACUC Policy on Considerations for Alternatives as well as Protocol Forms.

The 3 R's

Searching for animal alternatives is typically guided by the "3 R's":

  • Reduction - Minimize the number of animals used to smallest number needed to obtain statistically relevant results.
  • Refinement - Use techniques that reduce the incidence or severity of pain and/or distress in animals.
  • Replacement - Substitution of non-animal methods or material or a lower species that may be less sensitive to pain and distress.

First described in The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique by Russell and Burch (1959).

Contact the Medical Library


or call 919-660-1100 and ask for an IACUC librarian.


Visit the Duke Medical Center Library:

Duke Health badge access - 24/7

Painful or Distressing Procedures

Below are some, but not all of the painful and/or distressing procedures you will be required to conduct a literature search for in order to seek methods of reduction, refinement, and replacement, and document in your protocols:


Chest Tube



Electrical Stimulation


Intraosseous Infusion



Nerve Transection​

Spinal Tap