Over 100 Chimpanzees Guaranteed Sanctuary
On September 21, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that 110 chimpanzees housed at the controversial New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana were declared "permanently ineligible for biomedical research." While welcome news, it is concerning that only 10 of these chimpanzees are scheduled to be transferred to Chimp Haven, a sanctuary for chimpanzees retired from research. NIH said it was sending the other 100 animals to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, which has been cited several times for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Although NIH claims these chimpanzees will not be used in invasive research, they also will not be officially retired, and, therefore are at risk of being called back into service. Furthermore, they won't be living in an environment best suited for their special needs. Considering the years of abuse endured by these animals, they deserve a peaceful and proper retirement in a sanctuary.
The 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (CHIMP Act) was created to establish a national sanctuary system for chimpanzees retired from federal research. It states that "all surplus chimpanzees owned by the federal government shall be accepted into the sanctuary system." By sending retired chimpanzees to a lab at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, NIH is not acting in accordance with the CHIMP Act. All of the chimpanzees determined to be "ineligible" for research should be sent to Chimp Haven or to other accredited sanctuaries.
NIH's decision to retire the chimps at New Iberia was made following an undercover investigation showing the ill treatment of animals at the facility, and reports indicating that the lab bred government-owned chimpanzees in violation of an NIH moratorium on breeding. However, NIH dismissed the latter charges in August.
In December 2011, a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled "Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity" concluded that "most current use of chimpanzees is unnecessary." Immediately following the release of the IOM report, NIH announced that it would adopt new, strict criteria based on IOM guidelines, drastically limiting the use of chimps in federally-funded research. A special advisory group to NIH is reviewing government-funded research studies that currently use chimpanzees in order to decipher their 'necessity' and outline rules for future use of chimps in research. Its recommendations are expected in January.