Users will notice that all the talk about humane care seems to centre on how we treat live animal models but much of what we know about the well-being of our animal models whether it is in seeking research knowledge or ensuring better husbandry and health care comes from looking at animals that have been culled or died unexpectedly. Therefore all of the main international Guides or Codes of Practice have statement about the benefit of performing necropsies when required:

The HK Code of Practice states:


5.38 Autopsy should be performed when animals die unexpectedly.

The Guide states:

Medical records for individual animals can also be valuable … They should include pertinent clinical and diagnostic information, date of inoculations, history of surgical procedures and postoperative care, information on experimental use, and necropsy findings where applicable. Basic demographic information and clinical histories enhance the value of individual animals for both breeding and research and should be readily accessible to investigators, veterinary staff, and animal care staff.

The Australian Code states:

2.1.5(v)(d) actions required for unexpected adverse events and emergencies, including those that require welfare interventions such as the emergency treatment or humane killing of any animal, to ensure that adverse impacts on animal well-being are addressed rapidly.
Such guidance should include time-frames for actions, prompt reporting to the AEC, liaison between animal carers and investigators, and circumstances when consultation with a veterinarian, the performance of a necropsy by a competent person, and access to diagnostic investigations are required

2.5.17 (iii): for animals that die unexpectedly, ensure that institutional and AEC policies and procedures are followed regarding the conduct of a necropsy and access to diagnostic services when samples are collected for ancillary testing

3.1.25: When an animal dies unexpectedly, or is humanely killed due to unforeseen complications, a necropsy should be performed by a competent person

The EU Directive requires PM facilities in all vivariums:

1.3. General and special purpose procedure rooms
(a) Establishments shall, where appropriate, have available laboratory facilities for the carrying out of simple diagnostic tests, post-mortem examinations, and/or the collection of samples that are to be subjected to more extensive laboratory investigations elsewhere.

Therefore users and APCF staff are expected to be familiar with basic necropsy procedures and APCF staff will conduct necropsy on animal models that have died unexpectedly.

Here are some valuable references for users and APCF staff to review necropsy procedures:

Vincenzo Covelli – Guide to the Necropsy of the Mouse

Vincenzo Covelli – Guide to the Necropsy of the Mouse

Diagnostic Necropsy and Selected Tissue and Sample Collection in Rats and Mice -video

Diagnostic Necropsy and Selected Tissue and Sample Collection in Rats and Mice – article

Tissue collection for systematic phenotyping in the mouse.

Mouse pathology

Mouse Phenotyping 101: Necropsy and Tissue Trimming

Phenocourse Lab Manual: Practical Mouse Evaluation & Pathology