Office of Research Transporting Rodents/Rabbits and Cats to and from Research Laboratories - Office of Research

Transporting Rodents/Rabbits and Cats to and from Research Laboratories


The microbiological status (health status) of animals can have a profound effect on research results and should therefore be carefully monitored and controlled. One of the greatest means for potential cross contamination of pathogens is during transportation and use of animals in investigator laboratories for experimental procedures. This policy describes procedures investigators must follow in order to minimize cross contamination during transport between animal facilities and investigator laboratories. The procedures also minimize the allergen exposure to personnel working with and around animals.


Rodent transportation is a possible source of contamination for the rodent colony.  It is also a possible source of allergen exposure for the human population. In order to safeguard both animals and humans working in laboratories, precautions must be taken. In addition, transporting research animals through public spaces may draw unwanted attention to the research animals, the animal facility, the laboratory where procedures are carried out, and the researchers carrying out the work. It is essential that all personnel transporting animals do not draw attention to the animals being transported and that the transport is conducted in a campus-approved manner.


Rodents are to be transported in filter-topped cages. For all animals, a secondary barrier must be used to minimize the transfer of allergens or other health hazards into the vehicles used for transport (e.g., impermeable plastic sheet over upholstery, a disposable absorbent pad, lab bench paper, a plastic tub, a clean Tyvek lab coat). The rodent filter tops must be secured on the cage for transport using lab tape or equivalent. Transport must occur in a climate controlled vehicle with a minimum of stops; a cart may be used in place of a vehicle for very short distances in mild weather only and the cages must be appropriately covered to avoid drawing attention to the animals. A university-owned vehicle is preferred for transport but a privately owned vehicle, is allowed for rodent/rabbit/cat transport. The caging/transport containers must be covered from view of the public using a laboratory coat, cloth, fabric drape, or similar items for covering the cages without inhibiting air flow. Plastic bags must never be used to cover cages/containers during transport because they restrict air flow and place the animals at risk.  Since some vivaria do not allow in and out traffic of animals it is essential to check with the facility manager/technician-in-charge regarding each specific situation. Please also see the Attending Veterinarian’s Standard of Care regarding animal transportation. Guinea pigs, rabbits and cats do not require filter top caging for transport as it is not standard housing for these species. They can be transported in secure pet carriers ensuring the animals are contained and allergens minimized. Taping filter paper or other breathable barrier over the air holes of the containers and following the above barrier instructions will reduce allergen exposure of personnel and minimize contamination of the transport vehicle.  All transport containers including rodent caging should be freshly cleaned to minimize the transfer of allergens.  Alternatively, rodent caging may be wiped down to remove allergens prior to transport to minimize the additional stress of a cage change prior to transport.


A.   Ensure you are allowed to remove and return animals from the vivarium.

  1. Ensure the procedure/laboratory space is listed on the Animal Care and Use Protocol before moving any animals.
  2. Due to possible cross-contamination, ensure movement between the housing area, procedure/laboratory space and any other procedure space has been approved by the Health Monitoring Coordinator ( ).  Core facilities may involve use of the animal tracking system.

B.   Rodent cage/transport container dimensions are determined based on the number and weight of the animals and comparable to their normal housing cage size.

  1. Rodents may not be overcrowded for transport to laboratories or procedure space.
  • For example 8 mice many not be placed into a cage designed to house 4-5 animals.

C. The rodent cage is fitted with a filter top for transport or the open air access of the pet carrier is covered with breathable material.

1. Use a fresh cage or wipe down the exterior of the cage to minimize the transfer or allergens to common areas or the transport vehicle.  Terminal transport boxes may be available for rodents, see your vivarium manager for details.

  • Standard micro-isolator cages will have the water bottle flipped and then the top securely affixed.
  • Some Individually Ventilated Caging (IVC) bottles are external to the tops thus they must be turned after the top is affixed.
  • Hydropac pouches can be left in place, they typically do not drip when moved and will leak if removed.

2. The filter top is secured with lab tape or equivalent ensuring there is no restriction to air flow.

3. Cage cards remain affixed to the cage and must accompany the animals.

  •  Do not put cards inside the cages as the animals may destroy them.

4. Once the filter top or filter paper is taped to the top of the cage the animals can be covered for transport with breathable fabric or a paper covering dedicated for animal use only.

  • The visual barrier covering the transport container/rodent cage must be clean, sanitizable or disposable and may not be taken into the animal facility. It may not be stored in the vehicle as it may be contaminated with allergens. When the transport event is complete anything contacting the transport container or rodent cage must be removed from the vehicle.

D.  A cart may be used for very short distances during temperate weather only.

  1. Animals are extremely sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
  2. A climate-controlled vehicle must be used in hot or cold or rainy weather and/or when in populated areas where carrying or carting them would draw attention to the animals or the animal facility.

E.  Vehicle transport

  1. A laboratory coat, lab bench paper, or other barrier must be placed between the cages/pet carrier and the upholstery or floor.  Use a seat belt or other means to secure the carriers as necessary.  Placing them on the floor will also stabilize the transport enclosure.
  2. Animals should not be transported in the trunk or non-climate controlled area of a vehicle, or the bed of a pickup. Exceptions may be permitted for field study animals if described in a protocol that is approved by the IACUC. Temperature, season, and time of day must be considered to minimize animal welfare concerns.
  3. Smoking, eating, or drinking when animals are in the vehicle is not permitted.
  4. During transport of animals, unnecessary stops are not permitted (i.e., drive-through at a bank or restaurant). Animal transport must be direct from the housing area to the facility they are being transported to. Animals must never be left unattended in a vehicle.
  5. When using a personal vehicle to transport animals, non-university affiliated individuals must not be in the vehicle during transport.
  6. The vehicle’s climate control must be used as needed to maintain the temperature comfortable for the animals.
  7. A bicycle cannot be used for transport.

F.  When animals arrive in the laboratory or other approved destination: Filter tops must remain in place at all times, except when the animals are being removed from or returned to cages. Filter tops are removed and animals are handled in laboratories or other approved areas only. Animals may not be taken into eating areas, restrooms, common areas, office areas, or other non-laboratory/non-animal use space.

  1. Manipulation in a biosafety cabinet is strongly preferred, with the understanding that not all manipulations can be performed in a biosafety cabinet or hood.
  2. Laminar flow/clean benches (i.e., clean benches that direct HEPA-filtered air from back to front across the bench and thus directly toward the lab worker) are not appropriate for rodent manipulations as they can disperse allergens directly towards personnel.

G.  Return to the vivarium

  1. Return must be accomplished as described in the transport procedures above.
  2. Each vivarium will have a preferred method of reintroduction of animals and caging into the vivarium.
    • This may involve the disinfection of the outside of the cages and possibly fresh caging for the rodents.
    • See your vivarium or your facility manager for the appropriate mehtods.


Procedure: IACUC-13
Date: October 20, 2016
Enabled by: USDA/PHS
Supersedes: June 30, 2016