Choosing the right kind of bedding handling equipment for your animal facility is crucial for maintaining staff happiness and workflow. Making the wrong choice can result in a difficult-to-clean mess, leave personnel stressed, and can even lead to injury.

Why Does Bedding Handling Matter?
“Many bedding types are provided in 20-40 pound bags, or can be supplied in bulk sacks. The transportation of this bedding from receiving to final placement into a cage can take a pathway of several hallways, multiple floor levels and several handling steps. The handling and distribution of the bedding takes time and labor to perform. The repetitive motion of filling hundreds and many times thousands of cages daily creates an ergonomic concern. Bedding handling systems can provide a more automated solution to this manual process,” David Beckinghausen, the Vice President of Lynx Product Group, explained to ALN.

Bedding handling systems can include a range of equipment—everything from bedding dispensers to bedding transport and distribution to bedding disposal.

In an August 2017 survey of ALN subscribers, 40% of respondents indicated that they use automated bedding dispensing at their facility and 26% answered that they use automated bedding disposal in their vivarium.

Manual bedding dispensing can be labor-intensive and risks releasing allergens, such as dust and contaminants into the air. An automated bedding dispensing system can make the whole process more efficient, safe, and precise.

“I personally prefer an automated bedding dispensing since it reduces the manual variation in bedding quantity dispensing and gives accurate dispensing as per our requirement, which ultimately help to reduce the its wastage and cost. Though we conduct bedding disposal in bedding disposal stations to avoid allergen exposure, still the automated disposal system is best since it minimizes the manual intervention and its environment friendly. But this is more feasible and economically viable when the operations are at large scale,” one respondent wrote in the August 2017 ALN survey.

Bedding disposal equipment ensures that used bedding and other waste products is dumped in a safe, controlled manner that protects technicians from innumerable airborne particles and allergens from animal waste, food particles, dander, and the bedding itself.

“Bedding disposal cabinets utilize HEPA filtration to capture aerosolized particles that are generated during the process of dumping animal cages. It is critical that users are protected from these types of particles, which are typically allergens but may also involve aerosolized bio-hazards if the mouse or rat was infected,” Scott Christensen, the Vice President of Business Development at NuAire, Inc., told ALN.

Selection Criteria
Facility Size

Facility size is an important criteria to consider when selecting bedding handling equipment for your animal facility.

“There are several factors to consider when evaluating bedding systems. Cage count will be the first factor. Small facilities with small populations would likely not consider much more than a manually filled bedding dispenser. Larger facilities may be able to justify the cost of a more automated system when considering lost time transporting bedding throughout the facility, the health and well-being of their employees by removing the heavy lifting and ergonomic concerns of multiple repetitive motion activities,” Beckinghausen suggested.

Lynx Product Group, LLC, the company Beckinghausen works for, sells a variety of bedding handling equipment, including semi-automatic dispensers and fully-automatic bedding transport systems.

User Safety
Another important factor to consider is personnel safety.

“The most important consideration is to consider if the cages to be dumped involve animals that were exposed to potential bio-hazards, or if the status of the animal is unknown. If the answer to either of these questions is “Yes”, then the cages need to be dumped in a cabinet that offers the same level of safety as a Class II Bio-safety Cabinet (BSC) to protect the user,” Christensen said. “Even if there are no bio-hazards involved, the user still needs to be protected from potential allergens through a clearly defined air barrier across the front access of the cabinet. The higher the airflow, the better.”

NuAire offers both dedicated bedding disposal cabinets and bedding disposal options that are incorporated into Class II Type A2 Animal Handling BSCs. Regardless of the cabinet chosen, all cabinets NuAire offers protect the user through a 100 FPM air barrier across the work access opening. There is no guesswork involved in determining what level of safety the user is getting. The facility only needs to pick the type of cabinet and configuration that is best for them.

One Size Does Not Fit All
“Each facility has their own distinct needs and requirements for proper bedding materials best suited for their animals and research. The bedding handling equipment is custom tailored to each facility to accommodate their specific materials and the uniqueness of their facility,” Beckinghausen concluded.

“There is no “one size fits all” solution. Each facility has its differences in requirements and layout. Without proper attention to the details, one solution may not perform nearly as well as one that has been specifically designed and tailored for that facility.”

Elizabeth Doughman is the Editor in Chief of ALN Magazine. She has been working on the multimedia publication since 2006, where she writes about everything from vivarium design to methods of improving laboratory animal welfare. 973-920-7662,