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FOCUS: SNPRC’s Commitment to Care


The Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) is committed to not just meeting, but exceeding, the highest standards of research animal care. Recent inspections from federal regulators and external reviewers found that SNPRC has once again passed its checks with flying colors.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture came for one of its unannounced visits. Officials inspected facilities, checked on animals and reviewed scientific protocols to see if all federal Animal Welfare Act regulations are being followed.

“We do our absolute best to care for the animals,” says Attending Veterinarian Diana Scorpio, DVM, MPH. “When you get a clean report from USDA like we did this spring, we feel such great pride in our animal care program.”

This follows last fall’s review by AAALAC International, which is a nonprofit organization promoting the humane treatment of animals in science. AAALAC renewed SNPRC’s full accreditation status for three years.

“Being accredited means we are adhering to the highest standards — and in some cases, exceeding the standards — for use and care of research animals,” Dr. Scorpio says. “AAALAC looks at everything related to animal care, from housing to breeding to the enrollment of nonhuman primates in studies.”

This external validation underscores SNPRC’s efforts to go above and beyond caring for its animals, which are a precious resource. Global companies and research organizations like the National Institutes of Health are also more likely to partner with SNPRC.

“A lot of organizations use the accreditation and inspections to decide who they want to work with,” says Dr. Scorpio, who is also a Professor and Associate Director of Veterinary Resources and Research Support. “If you don’t have those, you don’t have trust.”

SNPRC provides creature comforts the nonhuman primates need. The macaques, baboons, marmosets and chimpanzees have plenty of shade, shelter, food and around-the-clock medical care. They have indoor-outdoor housing and are intentionally placed in species-appropriate social groups or pairs. A trained team of experts in primate biology and behavior design species-specific enrichment activities to ensure the animals are engaged and displaying typical behaviors.

“My philosophy is that we are advocates for the nonhuman primates to make sure we are doing right by them and by the science,” Dr. Scorpio says. “They are providing us with information that directly helps the global good.”

If there ever came a point when animal research is no longer necessary, Dr. Scorpio says that would be welcome. In the meantime, animal models remain the gold standard for capturing critical aspects of living physiology and are vital for discovering biomedical breakthroughs.

“As veterinarians, respect for animal life is part and parcel of our profession,” Dr. Scorpio says. “These animals are a privilege to work with. They deserve to have the best of the best. We want to ensure they are given the highest level of care.”

This story appeared in the Summer 2022 edition of TxBiomed magazine. See more stories from TxBiomed here.