Project Chimps: Drop the lawsuit against 2 whistleblowers, provide high-quality chimp care

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Lindsay Vanderhoogt
Lindsay Vanderhoogt signed this petition

Project Chimps, a sanctuary for chimpanzees affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is failing its mission to provide lifelong exemplary care to chimpanzees retired from medical research by providing inadequate veterinary care, limited enrichment, and prioritizing financial gain over chimpanzee welfare. At great risk to their own livelihoods and future careers, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt exposed this maltreatment and declining quality of care to federal authorities, public policy advocates, the press, and the public.

After raising awareness about the issues taking place at the sanctuary via authorities, the website www.HelpTheChimps.org the Instagram account @ChimpsDeserveBetter, and through multiple personal comments and posts, Crystal and Lindsay are now being sued by Project Chimps in retaliation for their complaints and as a transparent coverup attempt. The case is pending in Fannin County Superior Court, Case No. SUV2020000199.   

We are asking for your help by signing this petition asking Project Chimps and the Humane Society of the United States to drop the lawsuit against Crystal and Lindsay.

At least 20 additional whistleblowers have attempted to expose maltreatment at Project Chimps, but for fear of the kind of action Project Chimps has taken against Crystal and Lindsay, many have chosen to remain anonymous. This lawsuit threatens to force Crystal and Lindsay to produce personal messages regarding Project Chimps, which could potentially expose the identities of other whistleblowers involuntarily. This ruling could potentially jeopardize the employment of current Project Chimps employees who have expressed concern privately but who are hoping to remain anonymous to keep their jobs at the sanctuary. 

Crystal and Lindsay recently had their first hearing on the lawsuit from Project Chimps. The court did not yet grant Project Chimps’ motion to silence them, which is a small victory, but we are in for a long fight. Their lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit because it infringes on their right to free speech and is improper for many reasons.

Project Chimps and HSUS will not bow down easily. We need your help showing both organizations that filing the lawsuit was wrong and that it should be withdrawn immediately. We hope that if Project Chimps and HSUS see strong public support for dropping the lawsuit, they will have no choice but to drop the charges. 

If Project Chimps wins, this lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent that could affect more animals, not just the chimps at the sanctuary, by silencing those who are trying to raise serious concerns about welfare issues. We need your help to make sure this lawsuit goes no further.

Please sign this petition and share it widely on your social media. With your help, we can continue being a voice for these chimps.

Some Background and History:
Crystal Alba was an employee at Project Chimps for 3 years and was responsible for the beautiful photography that helped grow the sanctuary’s social media following. In addition to being the sanctuary photographer, Crystal was also a caregiver and vet assistant. Crystal tried many times to raise her concerns to the sanctuary's Board of Directors and leadership, but every attempt was ignored. Crystal was fired on March 31, 2020, for standing up for the chimps’ welfare and quality of life. This is all documented on the website she created, www.HelpTheChimps.org which was designed to shed light on the current state of the sanctuary. Countless documents, photographs, videos, and other evidence are presented on the website exhibiting inadequate veterinary care, restricted enrichment, and crumbling infrastructure at the sanctuary. Crystal reported the same concerns to federal and other authorities.

Lindsay Vanderhoogt was a founding staff member of the sanctuary and during her employment was responsible for chimp care, managing Project Chimps social media accounts, and creating videos for social media content. Though she left Project Chimps for her own reasons in 2018, upon hearing about the declining welfare of the chimps and that Crystal had been fired for speaking up, Lindsay used her writing and social media skills to raise awareness of the status of the sanctuary and the inadequate medical care being provided to the chimps. 

Crystal, Lindsay, as well as many others, are deeply concerned about the welfare of the chimps currently residing at the sanctuary. Many have complex medical conditions such as Hepatitis and liver disease due to their history in medical research. Project Chimps has done nothing to address these serious medical conditions and many chimps continue to have their medical conditions ignored and mistreated. Again, much of this is evidenced in the website, www.HelpTheChimps.org The current veterinarian on staff at Project Chimps is a small animal vet who had no prior chimpanzee experience before joining the Project Chimps staff, let alone experience caring for chimps with complicated medical conditions such as liver disease and missing organs due to laboratory research.

Crystal and Lindsay hoped that by sharing the truth with the public that Project Chimps would feel public pressure and invest in hiring an experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable veterinarian who is competent in treating chimpanzees with complicated medical conditions. Instead, Project Chimps has invested tens of thousands of dollars in suing Crystal and Lindsay.

Due to this lawsuit, Crystal and Lindsay are being forced to put their lives on hold to fight Project Chimps’ claims against them. They desperately need your help in spreading the word in hopes that Project Chimps and HSUS will cave to public pressure and drop the lawsuit. You can help by signing this petition and sharing it on social media.  

“After working in both veterinary and human medical environments for several years, I was excited to combine these skills to help the chimpanzees. As the vet assistant, I was the only staff member at the sanctuary to see every chimp every day. And as the sanctuary photographer, I had the unique experience of spending several hours a week watching the chimps. I got to know them all as individuals and became invested in their happiness and well-being. Watching the chimps’ general decline during my 3 years at Project Chimps was distressing, and I sought to help them through every possible internal channel before seeking outside help. I hope that I can continue to fight for them to get the care they were promised.” – Crystal Alba

“Working with the chimps and earning their friendship was the greatest honor of my life. I fell deeply in love with each individual and feel it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to ensure they receive the sanctuary life they were promised by Project Chimps. I am willing to do whatever I can to be a voice for them, even if it means fighting Project Chimps in court. All of this stress and worry will be worth it if it means the chimps can receive the high quality of care they deserve and can live long, happy, healthy, enriched, and fulfilling lives in true sanctuary.” – Lindsay Vanderhoogt

You can also support Crystal and Lindsay’s fight to be a voice for chimps by donating to their GoFundMe campaign created to help raise funds for legal counsel: gf.me/u/x63cpi