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Animals in Research: Searching Alternatives : Getting Started


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 research animals. 

Peruse the 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.

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.

For additional information, refer to Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals: Eighth Edition and AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals.

You may also want to review the Duke IACUC Policy on Considerations for Alternatives and 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).

Painful or Distressing Procedures

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


Chest Tube



Electrical Stimulation


Intraosseous Access



Muscle Transection

Nerve Transection



Spinal Tap


Stomach Tube




Contact the Medical Library



Visit the Duke Medical Center Library:

Duke Health badge access - 24/7

Public access Mon-Fri 7:30am - 6pm

AWIC Training

In 2014, AWIC trainers visited Duke and held several training sessions on Meeting the Information Requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

Slides from the training are available here.  A set of additional slides are available here.


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