Animal Sanctuaries

AV magazine issue 3, 2010 2010 Issue #3 & 4 A Place to Call Home Sanctuary:
Our Mission, Their Lives

Crystal Schaeffer

"They are now free to be monkeys." Perhaps more gratifying words have never been spoken, especially if you are a rhesus macaque, capuchin, marmoset, squirrel monkey, or cotton-top tamarin rescued from a laboratory. And certainly no matter who the animal, each deserves and has the right to live not only a life free of pain and misery but also to be who s/he is meant to be—a rabbit, pig, dog, cat, cow, horse, mouse, rat, bird, chimpanzee—and the individual who chooses carrots over lettuce, faces the sun to take a snooze, prefers a red ball over a squeak doll, squeezes into secret spots to catch a ray of sun, plays chase with a goat friend, enjoys a two finger scratch down the bridge of his nose, loves to take morning naps in her food dish, hides in the pink towel but never the blue, greets visitors with a squawk followed by a tune, and laughs as she plays in the water with her best friend.

These are the realities for a precious few who have been removed from laboratories and are now healing from their suffering, living in peace in sanctuaries.

Our Mission
The mission of the American Anti-Vivisection Society is to unequivocally oppose and work to end experimentation on animals and to oppose all other forms of cruelty to animals. Part of AAVS's strategy to meeting this mission is a holistic approach to animal advocacy that includes helping to provide haven to animals who have served as involuntary research subjects, forced to relinquish their well-being in exchange for pain and suffering. Retiring animals from laboratory research is a fairly new phenomenon compared to the centuries old practice of animal experimentation that was occurring in the 1880s, when AAVS was established. During a time when dogs were stolen off the street and often no anesthesia was used during painful, invasive procedures, most likely it was beyond the comprehension of our founder, Caroline Earle White, that animals could be removed from laboratories and relocated to places whose sole job was to safeguard them and their welfare. Indeed, throughout the close of the 19th century and most of the 20th century, animals used in research were rarely released from laboratories. The vast majority either died as part of an experiment or were purposely killed after researchers deemed them no longer "usable," while a precious few were relocated to zoos, still held captive and undoubtedly unable to heal fully from both their physical and mental wounds.

Since its first grant in 1982, AAVS has awarded over three-quarters of a million dollars to worthy sanctuaries that provide exceptional care for animals rescued from experimentation and abuse. The criteria to receive an AAVS grant is stringent. Foremost, sanctuaries are required to operate in accordance to AAVS principles, and grants must be used in a manner aligned with our mission to end the use of animals in research, testing, and education. Additionally, sanctuaries must maintain high standards of care (such as those outlined by sanctuary accreditation organizations) for the animals entrusted to them.

One of the things that sets AAVS's grant program apart is our willingness to provide grants for general support, meaning that they are not always earmarked for a specific purpose like building enclosures for newly rescued monkeys. We prefer this approach because oftentimes, it is the costs associated with general operations—electricity, water, sewer, heat, food, staff salaries—that can be the most overwhelming, even for the most successful sanctuaries.

The majority of sanctuaries receiving AAVS grants are those that take in "exotic" animals from laboratories, such as primates, who need specialized housing and diets, environmental stimulation, veterinary treatment, etc. It is also important that these sanctuaries do not operate like zoos, and that animals living there are afforded their privacy with little direct human contact and the right to live a life as close to their wild counterparts as possible. AAVS has also provided funding for facilities like Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines and The Animali Farm, which care for large domestic animals like horses, who, due to their size and cost of care, are not easy to place for adoption. Because they are domesticated, farmed animals often welcome (and need) human touch; but while these sanctuaries may be open to the public, visitors are permitted only to meet the animals, and they are not worked in any way, including for pleasure riding.

Ties that bind
AAVS has been able to build relationships with several sanctuaries with ties to our hometown of Philadelphia, and a prime example is Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines. Our connection is based on more than close proximity; rather, its foundation is over 125 years old. Ryerss' founder, Robert W. Ryerss, was a colleague of Caroline Earle White and one of the original founders of AAVS.

The horses at Ryerss have long benefited from AAVS sanctuary grants. In 1989, AAVS awarded Ryerss $30,000 to "support refuge and rehab of vivisected horses." Less than 10 years later, Ryerss welcomed 34 foals who were rescued from the Premarin industry. (Premarin is a drug used to treat hormone imbalance in women and is produced using pregnant mare's urine, and involves continually impregnating horses. ) Considered to be by-products of the industry, the foals were at risk to be sent to feedlots and slaughterhouses. AAVS grants aided Ryerss in offering sanctuary to these animals, including special care and rehabilitation, so that they could be adopted into loving families.

Two other equines at Ryerss benefiting from AAVS sanctuary grants are Ralph and Stanley, who were released from a pharmaceutical company, where they were used in the production of snake and spider anti-venom. Today, they live on the green, rolling pastures at Ryerss; and Stanley, handsome sorrel Belgian that he is, has been featured on some of AAVS's promotional materials.

It is worth noting that Ralph and Stanley came from a laboratory located not very far from AAVS. In fact, southeastern Pennsylvania has a high density of research facilities, one of which is the Buckshire Corporation. Often operating as a supplier, Buckshire bred chimpanzees and leased animals to research labs, as well as those in the entertainment industry. Typically, chimpanzees there lived in isolation in standard-sized 5' x 5' x 7' laboratory cages.

In 1996, 12 chimpanzees were released by Buckshire to Primarily Primates, marking what many consider the first time chimps were permanently retired from research and placed in a sanctuary environment. Dubbed the Buckshire 12, these chimpanzees had lived in isolation for 10-20 years, and the thought of placing them in successful family groups seemed far-reaching for some. As recently as 20 years ago, little was known about chimpanzee relations and socialization, especially outside the confines of a laboratory environment. But a key element in this process was understanding the chimps' personalities and temperaments in isolation versus in social groups.

Caregivers at Buckshire recommended pairing certain chimpanzees, and later they were introduced into larger groups, in larger areas, allowing for observation of their behaviors and insights into who might be best grouped together at Primarily Primates.

Months of hard work, diligence, and patience paid off, and the chimps are still reaping their just rewards, living happily in family groups in sanctuary. This success demonstrated that it was possible to resocialize not only chimps who once lived in families in the wild but also to socialize those who were born in the lab and were unfamiliar with group living. Over the years, AAVS has awarded Primarily Primates with grants that have been used to meet the needs of the Buckshire 12 as well as the many other animals who reside there.

Additionally, AAVS is happy to announce that Buckshire permanently stopped dealing in chimpanzees. The last seven of Buckshire's chimps now reside at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, another benefactor of AAVS sanctuary grants.

Who made the news
While the Buckshire 12 may be considered the first chimpanzees released from research for permanent retirement, it was the LEMSIP chimps who made the news. Affiliated with New York University's (NYU) School of Medicine, the Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP) was established in 1965, and hundreds of chimpanzees and monkeys were used in intensive biomedical research. Jan Moor-Jankowski was the Director of LEMSIP, as well as a source of controversy. However, the hullabaloo hit the fan when Moor-Jankowski, editor of Journal of Medical Primatology, published a letter to the editor authored by Shirley McGreal, founder of the International Primate Protection League (IPPL), that criticized the use of wild caught monkeys in hepatitis research. Following that, NYU denied him the necessary funding to improve his laboratory for the betterment of the animals. Moor-Jankowski later blew the whistle on the University and Ron Wood, who had been addicting primates to crack cocaine. NYU was charged with 378 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. In 1997, NYU shut down LEMSIP, and while many of the primates were sent to the Coulston Foundation, another lab with serious welfare violations, over 200 chimps and monkeys were relocated to sanctuaries across North America. Among them was the Primate Rescue Center, an AAVS grantee. Today, the LEMSIP chimpanzees there are living as one happy family unit with another group of chimps who were rescued from the exotic pet industry.

In honor
AAVS has a long history of supporting individuals working at the grass roots level and/or directly with animals. Fittingly, IPPL was one of AAVS's original grant awardees receiving funding to provide haven for animals formally used in research. An organization that advocates on behalf of primates around the world, IPPL also operates a sanctuary that over 30 gibbons call home.

IPPL's first grant was in 1983 and was used to provide care for Arun Rangsi, the sanctuary's first resident, who was relinquished after the lab that used him in cancer research closed. Unlike other primates who live in groups, gibbons form lifelong monogamous pairs, so finding a companion for Arun Rangsi became a priority. He was introduced to Shanti, who had also been rescued from a lab, and proved to be the perfect mate. Arun Rangsi and Shanti still live at IPPL along with other gibbons rescued from labs.

Over the decades, IPPL founder Shirley McGreal, Ed. D., OBE, has maintained a strong dedication and tenacity in advocating for primates, and sharing these same traits with AAVS's founder, in 2008, she became the recipient of the first Caroline Earle White Award.

Their lives
The face of sanctuaries today is far different than it was just few decades ago, and along with demanding that animals be released from their laboratory misery comes the responsibility for their lives once they are free. To this end, as a leader in the anti-vivisection movement, AAVS is also a leader in the sanctuary movement. In part, this involves supporting the design of a sanctuary accreditation system that creates and outlines high standards of not only care and treatment of animals but also of sanctuary operation, as well as aiding struggling facilities so that they can incorporate these high standards. AAVS has played a key role in this process. Starting with the American Sanctuary Association, AAVS helped to fund and actively participated in its operations. Today, AAVS is part of a coalition of groups that supports the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), and AAVS President Sue Leary serves on its Board.

In 2005, AAVS furthered its goal to support sanctuaries by formally establishing the Tina Nelson Sanctuary Fund, named after our Executive Director from 1995-2005. Tina had a passion for sanctuaries and visited facilities across the country quite often, providing individual attention to help them to continue to succeed. Sharing stories of the many rescued animals she had the pleasure of helping and meeting, it was evident that Tina could see in their eyes the image the animals carried of themselves. So, it seems quite fitting to recognize Tina's efforts in this way.

As AAVS continues to work to end animal experimentation and becomes more involved in the sanctuary movement, the reality of the animals involved becomes abundantly clear. As we call for an end to animal research, we must also call for sanctuary. It is our mission. It is their lives.

Read more from this issue of the AV Magazine
Ending the Use of Animals in Science