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  • 01_Rehoming

    The rats are still in the laboratory in their normal environment. (Image: Paulin Jirkof, UZH)

  • 02_Rehoming

    The boxes for the transport of the rats are being prepared. (Image: Paulin Jirkof, UZH)

  • 04_Rehoming

    The first rat is ready for transport to its new home. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

  • 05_Rehoming

    Bedding and household paper provide play and nesting material for the rats. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

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    A cardboard box serves them as a dwelling – mice are also placed with private individuals. (Image: Julika Fitzi, Swiss Animal Protection)

  • 03_Rehoming

    Out of the transport box, into the new life: a rat is handed over to its new owner. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

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    Now it's time for the rat to explore its new home. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

  • 08_Rehoming

    After a short time, the rats get used to their new environment. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

  • 09_Rehoming

    Giving laboratory animals the chance of a new life is both motivation and satisfaction for those involved. (Image: Judith Bernegger, Club der Rattenfreunde)

A New Life After Leaving the Lab

UZH has rehomed 538 laboratory animals in private households since 2018. Hundreds of rats and mice, as well as some rabbits and dogs used in research projects have thus been given a new life. For the rehoming project, UZH works hand in hand with the Swiss animal protection society, the SAP.

Many small rodents used for research purposes at UZH have to be euthanized after the experiments. This usually happens for scientific reasons, for example to enable the researchers to fully examine the animals. But some mice and rats are left over, were not used in the experiments, or are healthy enough to continue living.

New homes for 318 rats, 207 mice, 10 dogs and 3 rabbits

Wouldn’t it be nice if these animals could live out the rest of their days in a peaceful home after their time in the lab, thought Paulin Jirkof, 3R coordinator at the UZH Office for Animal Welfare and 3R, and Julika Fitzi, head of the animal research section at the SAP. In 2018, together with the SAP branch Club der Rattenfreunde (rat friends club), they launched a rehoming project to place no-longer-needed lab animals – mainly small rodents such as rats and mice – in private households.

By December 2022, 318 rats, 207 mice, 3 rabbits and 10 dogs had settled into their new homes. The rehoming project is regulated through a sponsorship agreement, and the costs are covered jointly by UZH and the SAP: the researchers pay around 35 francs per rehomed rat while the SAP contributes a further 35 francs. In addition, individual research groups – some of which have been doing so for a long time – provide laboratory animals to interested parties on a private basis, including cats, dogs, chameleons, guinea pigs and sheep.

Time, commitment and cooperation required

The project has been made possible thanks to the positive cooperation of all parties. Paulin Jirkof is responsible for the organization on the UZH side, the laboratory animal service center (LASC) covers part of the maintenance costs and helps with the transport of material, and several vets are involved, for example to castrate the animals if necessary. When the animals are ready to be transported, they are handed over to the relevant SAP section such as the Club der Rattenfreunde, which matches them with a pet owner.

The organizers aim to expand the scheme to include other animal species in the future – for many years, dogs, cats, quails, guinea pigs, sheep, birds and chameleons used by various UZH research groups have already been successfully adopted by private households in individual arrangements. All those involved – the researchers, animal carers and protection officers, and the new owners – are happy to be giving the animals the opportunity of a new life.

In February 2021, ETH Lausanne began a similar rehoming project with the SAP, which was reported on the Western Swiss TV channel RTS:
ETH Lausanne: Rehoming Project
Western Swiss TV: La 2e vie des animaux de laboratoire

Weiterführende Informationen

Club der Rattenfreunde

Schweizer Tierschutz (STS)