Regarding the Dec. 9 news story “Rats model empathy by helping, sharing”:

As a neurologist, I am not surprised that there is convincing evidence that rats exhibit empathy, but my hope is that this information will help people see these animals and their emotional lives in a different light. It should not serve as a catalyst to use them in even more experimentation, as was suggested, but it should instead prompt more attention to their well-being in the laboratory. After all, the United States’ Animal Welfare Actspecifically excludes these animals from basic protections under the law.

Until the day when rats are no longer used in research, the onus is on lab personnel to improve the welfare of the millions of them used every year — for the sake of these emotional creatures, the quality of the research being conducted and our own collective humanity.

David O. Wiebers, Overland Park, Kan.

The writer serves on the board of the Humane Society of the United States.