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Alternatives to Animal Testing & Compliance Guide

Compliance Guidance & What You Need to Know

Know the Laws

U.S. laws require that alternatives must be considered before using animals

for research and testing

Both the Animal Welfare Act and the USDA require submission of documentation that shows whether or not alternatives have been considered of proposed research or teaching that may cause pain or distress to animals. The IACUC (Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee) of each institution must review protocols and documentation provided by the lead investigator that shows that they have followed the law and have considered appropriate alternatives before approval of proposed research is given. Everything must be addressed and justified.                                                                                                                                          

Animal Welfare Act             

USDA Policies

USDA Animal Welfare Act Policies 

Alternative Models/Methods to Consider

What alternatives to animal models should I look into?


  • in vitro / Test Tube

This method takes place outside of a living organism.Methods may involve using human cells, human tissue samples  (i.e. Genoskin, HypoSkin), tissue cultures, 2D or 3D tissue models (i.e., EpiDerm, EpiSkin, SkinEthic), organs-on-a-chip, cell cultures, etc.


  •  in silico / Computer Models 

This method may involve virtual trials, databases, models, simulations, imaging studies, VPH (Virtual Physiological Human) models, QSAR, SAR, etc.


  • Other Models/Methods

Methods may include genetic testing, use of stem cells, microdosing, imaging scans, human volunteers, population research, etc.

Search Terms for Database Inquiries

Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement

Scientifically relevant terminology for searching alternatives in correlation with the 3 R’s:

“Reduction” and “Refinement:"               “Replacement” Keywords:               “Replacement” Continued:

Adverse                                                                 Algae, fungus,hydra, plant                          Membrane, organ, tissue, slice

Alternatives                                                           Alternatives                                                  Micro-organism

Analgesic, hypnotic, sedative, tranquilizer            Amphibian                                                   Model, sample, equivalent
Anesthesia, anesthesia                                         Anesthesia, anaesthesia                             Physiochemical system
Anxiolytic                                                               Animal testing alternatives                          Plant
Assay, technique, method, procedure                   Autopsy, biopsy                                           Plastination                                  
Enrichment (behavioral, environmental)               Cadaver                                                       Prediction
Experimental design                                             Cell, cellular, single-cell organism                Replacement, surrogate
Handling, housing, husbandry, caging                  Computer aided/assisted Instruction           Simulation

Invasive, non-invasive                                           Culture                                                        Software
Monitoring device                                                  Digital imaging                                            Structure-activity relationship
Positive reinforcement                                           Environmental enrichment                          System
Post-operative, post surgery                                  Fish, cephalopod                                        Train, educate, teach, instruct
Reduction, refinement                                            Hydra                                                          Video, virtual reality
Restraint, restrict, immobilize                                 in silico, in vitro                                           Yeast
Train, educate, teach, instruct                                Insect, invertebrate                                     

Welfare, pain, stress, distress                                Mammals, non-mammalian