PLoS One. 2023 Sep 7;18(9):e0288010. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0288010. eCollection 2023.
Refined handling improves laboratory mouse welfare and research outcomes when compared to traditional tail handling, yet implementation does not seem to be widespread. Refined handling includes picking up a mouse using a tunnel or cupped hands. The aim of this study was to determine the current prevalence of and beliefs towards refined handling using the theory of planned behavior. It was predicted that refined handling prevalence is low compared to traditional handling methods, and its implementation is determined by individual and institutional beliefs. Research personnel were recruited via online convenience sampling through email listservs and social media. A total of 261 participants in diverse roles (e.g. veterinarians, managers, caretakers, researchers, etc.) responded primarily from the USA (79%) and academic institutions (61%) Participants were surveyed about their current use, knowledge, and beliefs about refined handling. Quantitative data were analyzed via descriptive statistics and generalised regression. Qualitative data were analyzed by theme. Research personnel reported low levels of refined handling implementation, with only 10% of participants using it exclusively and a median estimate of only 10% of institutional mice being handled with refined methods. Individually, participants had positive attitudes, neutral norms, and positive control beliefs about refined handling. Participants’ intention to provide refined handling in the future was strongly associated with their attitudes, norms, and control beliefs (p<0.01). Participants believed barriers included jumpy mice, perceived incompatibility with restraint, lack of time, and other personnel. However, participants also believed refined handling was advantageous to mouse welfare, handling ease, personnel, and research. Although results from this survey indicate that current refined handling prevalence is low in this sample, personnel believe it has important benefits, and future use is associated with their beliefs about the practice. People who believed refined handling was good, felt pressure to use it, and were confident in their use reported higher implementation. Increased refined handling could be encouraged through education on misconceptions, highlighting advantages, and addressing important barriers.