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Cambridge has named local veterinarian Stuart E. Wiles the nation's first city official charged with monitoring the treatment of laboratory animals, City Manager Robert W. Healy announced Monday.
As the commissioner of laboratory animals, Wiles will be responsible for the inspection and registration of all institutions conducting animal research in the city. In addition, Wiles will have the power to veto certain appointments to animal care committees at those institutions.
"I am quite pleased," Wiles said in an interview yesterday. "I am looking forward to it. It is the first position of its kind in the country. And it being the first of its kind, it presents many interesting challenges."
Animal rights activists and researchers praised Wiles, who runs a part-time veterinary service and was a member of a special blue-ribbon mayoral commission created to recommend guidelines on animal care.
"I think they chose wisely," said Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine John M. Moses, who served on the commission with Wiles. Moses, who heads MIT's animal care committee said the veterinarian had "been put on the blue-ribbon committee because of his neutrality. These same virtues apply now and his experience on the committee makes him extra valuable."
among the humane community he is a very conciencious individual," said Ole Anderson, executive director of Cambridge Committee for Responsible Research, a local animal advocacy group.
Healy, who appointed Wiles 10 months after the city created the position, agreed that the selection would satisfy both researchers and activists.
"He will be able to enforce the ordinance and peacefully coexist with the research institutions and the animal rights movement," said Healy. "I think he brings a balanced approach to a position with extremists on both sides."
Cambridge's decision to appoint an laboratory animal official was seen as particularly significant because the city is home to so many research institutions.
When the city passed the ordinance creating the position early last summer, 13 institutions were known to be conducting experiments on animals. Now, there are several more, according to Anderson and Wiles.
Because he is uncertain about the exact number of labs currently experimenting on animals, and because the position is new, Wiles said he did not know what commitment the job would require.
"I am prepared to spend quite a lot of time ifI have to," said Wiles. "At the same time I don'twant to interfere with their work."
Observers, however, expect Wiles to take a veryactive role as commissioner.
"He takes his official appointments veryseriously He'll play a very active role," saidSteven M. Wise, the third member of the blueribbon commission and an animal welfare lawyer.
"I think that potentially he can wield quite alot of power the way the ordinance is written,"Wise said. "He is quite a humanitarian and he isnot limited to the requirements of the ordinance.His hands are not tied--if he sees something thatshould not be happening he can stop it."
Agassiz Professor of Zoology C. Richard Taylor,who chairs Harvard's animal care committee, saidhe doubted Wiles' appointment would affectHarvard's animal experimentation.
"There isn't anything to affect," Taylor said."Nobody found anything. We run an exemplaryprogram. There is no question we run of the bestprograms in the country."
But Taylor said he is still concerned thattougher animal rights legislation might impairresearch.
"The animal rights groups have increased thecosts of animal reseach by an order of magnitudeand I don't think our program has improved by anorder of magnitude," said Taylor.
According to Taylor, animal welfare groups areslowly trying to raise the price of animalresearch. He said creating the new position willonly succeed in creating new levels of bureacracy,and would not help the animals appreciably.
"There is going to be more beuracracy you haveto file the same report with a different level ofgovernment you are already filing with two otherlevels," Taylor said. "You aren't doing anythingdifferent except spending more money.
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