Codes of Practice, guidelines and tools

Quicklinks to CoP's, guidelines and tools:

Good care is of great importance in every work practice, but certainly also when working with laboratory animals. For the quality of research, but also for animal welfare. In the Netherlands and in many other countries, a large number of Codes of Practice (CoPs) have been drawn up in recent decades, in which quality standards for aspects of working with laboratory animals have been described on the basis of the most recent knowledge and experience.

In many cases these CoPs contribute to the Replacement, Reduction and / or Refinement (3Rs) of the use of laboratory animals. CoPs often do not have a formal legal status, but in practice they are regarded as 'best practices' that should be respected. Legislation and regulations prescribe that accepted 3V methods must be applied.

Because a CoP always describes the 'current' best practice, it can have a limited shelf life. After all, developments continue and the insight into biological processes increases. Therefore, where possible, the CoPs listed below also indicate whether they have been compared against the current state of knowledge and expertise and whether a revision of the CoP is necessary.

Obsolete CoPs should not be used as a quality standard for an animal experiment. The AWB Platform can, in case of doubt, be helpful in determining whether CoPs still comply with the current status of knowledge.

At the AWB Platform meeting in November 2017 an inventory was made of relevant CoPs that are missing in the overview below and which have to be revised. If you want to be involved in (re) writing an (obsolete) CoP, please contact the BV-committee AWB-Platform via:


Dutch Codes of Practice

The Netherlands National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (NCad), established in 2014 in the Netherlands, focuses among other things on stimulating the development, (inter) national acceptance and harmonization of best practices. With the aim to promote the application of 3V methods. The NCad advises the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Central Authority for Scientific Procedures on Animals (CCD) and AWBs and, in close cooperation with expert working groups and the AWB Platform, issues Codes of Practice (or: best practices). And makes them available internationally, also through the network of NCs within Europe. View the overview of the NCad advices here. These can assist in the preparation of best practices.

In the overview below, the existing CoPs in the Netherlands are also listed (indicated by NL CoP). Where possible, it is indicated whether this has been tested against the current state of knowledge and expertise and whether a revision of the CoP is necessary. Obsolete CoPs should not be used as a quality standard for an animal experiment. The AWB Platform can, in case of doubt, be helpful in determining whether CoPs still comply with the current status of knowledge.

This page was added on 13 July 2018. CoP's are added on this date, unless otherwise specified.


Codes of Practice and tools

Below is an overview of CoPs, grouped per theme. Various online databases are available for searching CoPs in the field of animal experimental research and 3R alternatives. Within the '3R Guide' section of Norecopa's international NORINA database, one can search for guidelines, regulations and policy. Also through the '3R resources’ section on the website of the British NC3Rs extensive information, including films and e-learning material, is available.

This overview is certainly not complete. If there are relevant CoPs missing in the overview below, or if you would like advice about whether a certain CoP still complies with the current status of knowledge, please contact the AWB Platform via the general e-mail address:


Experimental design and publishing about animal experiments

  • Interspecies Database (3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences, 2016). This database offers a large data set of reliable body values ​​and characteristics of different animal species and humans. This gives researchers the opportunity to choose an animal model that, on the basis of the data, matches as well as possible with another animal species, or with humans.
  • ARRIVE Guidelines (NC3Rs, 2010). Guidelines intended to improve the reporting of research using animals – maximising information published and minimising unnecessary studies.
  • PREPARE Guidelines (Norecopa, 2017). Guidelines intended to improve the planning of research using animals – maximising scientific validity and animal welfare.
  • Experimental Design Assistant (NC3Rs, 2015). Online tool to guide researchers through the design of their experiments, helping to ensure that they use the minimum number of animals consistent with their scientific objectives, methods to reduce subjective bias, and appropriate statistical analysis.

Husbandry and care



Genetically modified animals

  • Genetically altered animals (2013). EC Working Document for the purpose of implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU. The principles of creation, establishment and maintenance of genetically altered animal lines and how these are considered within project authorisation and statistical reporting. 
  • Genetically altered mice (NC3Rs, 2016). General information to help with the implementation of approaches to reduce and refine the use of GA mice.

Exotic animals

Experimental techniques

Anesthesia, analgesia & euthanasia

Humane endpoints

Severity assessment

  • Voorkómen, herkennen en bestrijden van pijn bij proefdieren  (NL CoP, 2016). Code that helps researchers, animal technicians and Animal Welfare Bodies to prevent, recognize and treat pain in laboratory animals.
    Status: complies with the current status of knowledge.
  • Severity Assessment (2012) EC Working Document for the purpose of implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU. The severity assessment framework from project planning, monitoring and assessing the severity through to final assignment of actual severity. Illustrative examples of practical application of the severity assessment process were added in 2013.
  • Categories of invasiveness in animal experiments (CCAC, 1991)
  • Grimace Scales (NC3Rs, ?) The NC3Rs has produced A3-sized posters of the mouse, rabbit and rat grimace scales for display in laboratory animal facility rooms and corridors, to help raise awareness about the scales and familiarise staff with the specific facial action units.
  • Focus on severe suffering (RSPCA/LASA/LAVA/IAT, 2016) information and resources that will help avoid severe suffering.
  • Gradering ongerief bij proefdieren (NL CoP, 1993). Code for defining and recognizing levels of distress in experimental animals.
    Status: adaptation of categories for distress classification required and alignment necessary with CoP Prevention, recognition and control of pain in laboratory animals. In this context, reference is made to the European Commission Working Document on Severity Assessment; see 'discomfort classification/severity assessment' below.

Re-homing laboratory animals

  • Herplaatsing van voormalige proefdieren (NL CoP, 2016). General framework with specific CoPs aimed at rehoming of non-human primates, dogs and cats.
    Status: complies with the current status of knowledge.
  • Re-homing and setting free of animals (Home Office UK, 2015) This advice note provides information on the legal requirements under the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) and gives guidance on current best practice in re-homing and setting free. Since the UK Act has been revised in order to transpose the EU Directive 2010/63, this document is of interest to other European countries also.

Organisation & Management

Ethical consideration

Education & Training

  • Education and Training (2014). EC Working Document for the purpose of implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU. Education and training framework with a modular Learning Outcome-based training structure, principles and criteria for supervision, competence assessment, continued professional development and for a mutual approval/accreditation of courses.
  • Guidance for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in Animal Science (2018). A manual with which institutions can arrange for themselves to be met 1) the requirements of further training as in schooling and 2) the requirements for demonstrable competence in the practical execution of procedures on animals.