Updated March 26 at 6:25pm
health care

URI veterinarian named vet of the year


SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Veterinarian David Serra, who oversees the welfare of animals at the University of Rhode Island, was named the Veterinarian of the Year by the Southern New England chapter of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science.

Serra’s responsibilities included rats and mice used in research laboratories, fish in tanks at the Narragansett Bay campus and livestock at Peckham Farm.

“Most of what I do is preventive medicine,” Serra said. “A big part of what I do is to ensure that the diseases inherent to these species don’t gain entrance to the animal colonies on campus. Screening for diseases and vigilance with surveillance are key.”

Serra said that while he looks out for the health of individual animals, the care of laboratory animals is more often described as herd health. “There are very few things that happen to one animal in a cage,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen usually happens to all the animals.”

According to Serra, advances in technology have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of laboratory animals used in research.

As a result of the strict regulations of the Animal Welfare Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducts unannounced inspections of animal care facilities once or twice a year to ensure that the university is in full compliance.

“The use of animals in research is a highly charged issue, but I don’t think that there will be a time when animals are no longer used,” Serra said. “We should continue to refine and reduce the number of animals used and find alternative methods, but I don’t think they’re ever going to go away entirely.”

Nor should it go away, he continued. “It should just be done better and better all the time. And if I can help make it better with better oversight of pain and distress, better oversight of nutritional adequacy and environmental enrichment for these animals, and make their lives happier while they’re giving their lives for us, then I’m very happy doing that.”


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It is a real shame that an individual involved with animal research should be named vet of the year. from the NEAVS.org website:


There is demonstrated evidence of the failures of the animal model. For example: forcing dogs to inhale cigarette smoke did not show a link to lung cancer; Flosint, an arthritis medication, tested safe in monkeys but caused deaths in humans; and the recalled diet drug phen-fen caused no heart damage in animals, while it did in humans—just a small sampling of volumes of examples. Yet in spite of the fact that species differences between human and nonhuman animals have lead to flawed science and incorrect conclusions, the practice of animal experimentation continues. An estimated 25 million or more animals, including rats, mice, and birds, are used yearly in the U.S. in all areas of research, testing, and education.

In an attempt to overcome the limitations of animal models, researchers are genetically engineering animals, by removing or adding genes they believe relate to specific human diseases. The underlying assumption here is that these new genetically constructed animals will be more human-like. This technology is commonly used in mice and rats and the number of genetically altered (transgenic) animals being produced for research has grown exponentially over the past ten years. Scientists also breed these animals to produce offspring whom they hope will express the desired traits or will be more susceptible to the disease or disorder they are studying.

The fact that existing animal models need to be genetically “improved” is further evidence of their original lack of biological and/or clinical relevance. Most noteworthy is the case of the chimpanzee, for whom it is scientifically substantiated that despite their natural genetic similarity to humans (we are more closely related to them and they to us than any other species); they still have failed in every major area of research to provide important or even helpful information for humans. The implications of this for the use of all other species in research meant to benefit humans are serious and likely insurmountable challenges for anyone who supports the use of animals for human biomedical research.


So much for the lies perpetrated by Big Pharma et al.

Is there some reason why the reporter for this story didn't offer another viewpoint? Where is the "fair and balanced" reporting we're supposed to have in the US media?

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