In the spring of 2016, an Environ- mental Enrichment Committee was developed within the department of Research Animal Resources (RAR) at
the University of Minnesota with the
goal of enhancing the environment and
welfare of the research animals. This
committee is comprised of a group of
people who voluntarily gets together on
a monthly basis, discusses new ideas,
and creates and evaluates enrichment
items for the research animals.
The formation of this committee not
only addressed the goal to benefit the
welfare of animals, but had several positive outcomes for the RAR department
as a whole.
One of the greatest unforeseen impacts
from the creation of this committee is
an increase in the departmental morale.
Committee members express greater job
satisfaction from being more involved in
the departmental mission to enhance animal welfare. Daily animal care duties are
typically prescriptive and can become
monotonous; however, creation of novel
enrichment is inherently flexible and
allows staff to engage in activities outside of their normal job responsibilities.
For example, members are given the
opportunity to volunteer for individual
projects related to animal enrichment
for species in which they have a special
interest. This allows individuals to interact with species that they may or may
not have an opportunity to care for regularly. Members can choose to collaborate
The Benefits of an Environmental
Resulting in Positive Outcomes for Animals, Employees,
and the Facility
Terresa Xiong, BS, ALAT, Misha Dunbar, DVM, DACLAM, and Laura Wilding DVM,
using their carpentry skills. There are
also artistic individuals who create fun
posters used to advertise the committee
to RAR and Research staff. Together, the
diverse collection of talents on the committee allows members to be fun, creative, and productive with enrichment.
Who doesn’t want to come to work
and have fun?! All of the craft and
building projects take place during
regular work hours because the RAR
department values the time spent to
enhance animal welfare (Figure 2).
From a departmental standpoint, cost
of overtime pay is not incurred. From
a member’s perspective, a chance to
engage in entertaining, yet important
activities during work hours is particularly satisfying. The Enrichment
Committee turns out to not only be
enriching for animals but also very
enriching for members.
Another positive outcome of the committee involves its contribution to professional development of the members.
During Committee meetings, members
present updates about current enrichment
projects. This allows individuals who
generally don’t engage in public speaking
to present in a safe, nurturing, and fun
environment. Lab staff who attend the
meetings have been impressed with the
ideas in these presentations. Some inves-
tigators have invited members to present
their projects as guest speakers for vari-
ous lab meetings. Also, there have been
opportunities for members to participate
as a team or work individually, but tak-
ing on a special project gives employees
a sense of ownership over their provision
of enrichment to animals.
The Committee creates an opportunity
for members to think outside of the box
and utilize individual creative talents.
Members can show off skill sets that may
not normally be required or needed for
their daily work responsibilities (Figure
1). Some have suggested new enrichment ideas for specific species. Others
are knowledgeable about constructing
items and have built various devices
Figure 1: Enrichment Committee members
show off some of their artistic and creative
skills to create animal enrichment.
Figure 2: At a Creation Meeting, two committee members have fun while unraveling
toilet paper rolls during regular work hours.