Research involving animals

In Switzerland, animal experiments can be performed if no alternative methods are available and following a careful harm-benefit analysis. Equally, strict rules apply to the training and continuing education of the researchers working with animals.

Switzerland possesses a comprehensive legislation on animal welfare and the area of animal research is regulated in a strict manner; in fact, a cantonal committee on animal experimentation examines each and every animal experiment applied for. Animal experiments are subject to a permit under Art. 18 of the Federal Law on the Protection of Animals (LPAn). The decision-making authority for the delivery of the permits is the Department of Health and Social Services (DSS) of the Canton Ticino, as regulated by the Art. 1 of the Cantonal Rules on Animal Protection (RCPA).

Laboratory experiments on animals have provided otherwise unreachable progresses in medicine and in our daily life. Examples include the discovery of insulin and antibiotics, the development of vaccines, treatments for incurable cancers and cardiovascular disorders, as well as modern surgical and diagnostic methods. Humans share about 95% of their genome with the mouse, it has been therefore adopted as the most common model animal in laboratory research. Comprehensive information on a range of topics related to animal experiments and laboratory animals is provided by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) as a basis for a dialogue on the subject, through an online portal:


The position of USI

The respectful, competent and responsible treatment of animals is one of the key principles of ethical conduct and a prerequisite for meaningful research involving animals. Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), as member of the umbrella organisation swissuniversities, thoroughly complies with its policies and framework conditions.

The utmost care is taken to employ other methods whenever possible and only involving animals in research when no alternative exists. In this regard, USI is committed to exemplary keeping of animals, proper training of the staff involved, careful planning of experiments, and exercising every opportunity to mitigate distress for the animals. USI regulates these responsibilities via a strict policy based on both the "Basel Declaration" and the Three Rs Principle (“Replacement, Reduction, Refinement”). Additionally, USI is a member of the Swiss 3R Competence Centre.


Three Rs: Replacement, Reduction, Refinement

The Swiss 3R Competence Centre (3RCC), a joint initiative of academia, industry, government and animal welfare associations, was founded in March 2018. It promotes the principles of 3Rs (reduction, refinement and replacement of animal experimentation) in Switzerland and facilitates their implementation in life sciences, focusing on research, education and communication. The partners include 11 universities and higher education institutions from Switzerland, the Swiss association of the pharmaceutical industry (Interpharma), the Swiss Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) and the Swiss Animal Protection (SAP).

As is the case with all experiments on animals, the use of animals in research studies is only approved after the cantonal authorities have conducted an extensive evaluation of all interests. The Commission on Animal Experimentation (Commissione cantonale per gli esperimenti sugli animali, CCEA) and the Cantonal Veterinary Office (Ufficio del veterinario cantonale) are in charge of assessing compliance with the Three Rs principle.

  • Replacement: Replace the animal experiment with a procedure that does not involve animals
  • Reduction: Reduce the number of laboratory animals to the absolute minimum 
  • Refinement: Improve the experimental procedures to minimize pain, suffering or distress

The CCEA in Ticino performs an evaluation of interests for every animal testing application submitted. In this evaluation, the benefits of the proposed study are weighed against the distress caused to the animals. The Commission only recommends the Cantonal Veterinary Office to grant the request when the benefits clearly prevail.