Humane and safe handling may include the use of manual or mechanical means to limit some or all of an animal's normal voluntary movement for the purposes of examination, collection of samples, drug administration, therapy, or manipulation. Ideally, veterinarians should be consulted in determining acceptable restraint methods and the most appropriate method for specific procedures. The method used should provide the least restraint required for the minimum amount of time necessary to allow the specific procedure(s) to be performed properly, should minimize fear, pain, distress and suffering for the animal, and should protect both the animal and people from harm. Restraint methods chosen should be tailored to respect the behavior of the species and the animals being treated.
Animals should remain under constant observation during physical restraint and should be sufficiently monitored to ensure the wellbeing of the animal during the restraint period and to avoid severe distress or death. Mechanical restraint devices should be designed to ensure the safety of the animal and should be appropriately maintained. Every effort should be made to ensure adequate and ongoing training in animal handling and behavior by all parties involved, so that distress and physical restraint are minimized.
Whenever appropriate, the animal should be exposed to the restraint method/device before use to mitigate fear and distress. Outcomes from physical restraint should be evaluated to assess the method’s acceptability and recommend modifications as necessary. Alternatives or adjuncts to physical restraint should always be considered, such as positive reinforcement training, other benign operant conditioning or training, less aversive handling methods, and/or anxiolytics. In some situations, sedation or anesthesia may be the preferred method. Restraint methods should be planned and communicated to all involved in the process prior to its application.