The NIH claims they will be retiring 110 chimpanzees from biomedical research, but 100 of them are moving to a laboratory with a dubious animal welfare record. These chimpanzees deserve true retirement in a sanctuary whose mission is to provide a permanent loving home, free from the reminders of biomedical testing.

The federal government established a system of providing for the care of chimpanzees retired from biomedical testing through the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act in 2000. The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) includes Chimp Haven, the sanctuary that cares for all other chimpanzees retired under the CHIMP Act. NAPSA sanctuaries can provide high-quality care for less money than what it will cost the government to warehouse the chimpanzees in a laboratory.

Moving the chimpanzees to a lab is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a travesty to the individual chimpanzees who should be able to live their remaining years in peace in a sanctuary where caregivers can properly provide for their mental and physical well-being.

Letter to
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.,
I was pleased to learn of your plans to remove 110 federally funded chimpanzees from biomedical experimentation, but dismayed that the vast majority of this group will be going to the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) at Texas Biomedical Research Institute. I am asking that all of these chimpanzees be permanently retired to a sanctuary.

Not only is the mission of SNPRC counter to providing a loving and caring environment for chimpanzees, but SNPRC has also had numerous animal welfare violations, and its Director, John VandeBerg, views chimpanzees as nothing more than tools. As reported by the Houston Press, VandeBerg said, "there are many books in the library that will never be used this year or next year. Many of them might never be used again. But we don't know which ones will be needed tomorrow, next year or the year after."

As you know, the federal government has established an official mechanism for retiring chimpanzees through the Chimpanzee Heath Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act of 2000. Ignoring this established process and claiming to “retire” chimpanzees when they will simply be moving from one biomedical facility to another is simply unacceptable. The NIH awarded Chimp Haven, a sanctuary in Louisiana, the contract to provide permanent lifetime care for federally owned chimpanzees, and Chimp Haven can accommodate all 110 chimpanzees with appropriate funding. The seven sanctuary members of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, including Chimp Haven, have offered to care for any retired federal chimps for less federal money than the cost to keep them at SNPRC.

There is no reason to deny these chimpanzees permanent retirement at a sanctuary whose mission is to provide quality care in an enriched and social environment.

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