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March 20, 2009

Members of Congress Urge Gov. Jindal to Retire Elderly Chimps

The Humane Society of the United States

Members of Congress have called on Gov. Bobby Jindal to authorize the permanent retirement of 26 elderly, wild-caught chimpanzees currently residing at the federally-funded University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center. U.S. Reps. David Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., sponsors of the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326), called for the move after the unveiling of The Humane Society of the United States' nine-month undercover investigation of NIRC, one of the largest primate laboratories in the country and the largest chimpanzee lab in the world.

The results of The HSUS' investigation revealed routine and unlawful mistreatment of hundreds of chimpanzees and other primates. The investigation resulted in a 108-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging a minimum of 338 possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The U. S. Department of Agriculture is now addressing NIRC's alleged lack of adherence to the minimum standards.

New Iberia Research Center cages about 6,000 monkeys and 325 chimpanzees on its 100 acres, but in the span of nine months, The HSUS' investigator saw only about 20 of the chimpanzees used in active studies. The majority of chimpanzees at the facility appeared to be warehoused or used for breeding — two activities that cost American taxpayers millions of dollars at a time of fiscal crisis. No other developed nation uses chimpanzees in experiments.

The Great Ape Protection Act is a federal bill to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, which would also require the retirement of the approximately 500 federally-owned chimpanzees. "We believe that the age and health of these animals would meet the federal standards for retirement eligibility, which examine factors such as the chimpanzees' current health, medical history, social status, and sanctuary capacity," explains Reps. Reichert, Langevin and Bartlett in the letter.

Many of these 26 elderly chimpanzees have been languishing in labs for more than 40 years. One of the chimpanzees at the facility, Karen, was taken from the wild and has been housed primarily in a barren laboratory setting since 1958.

Chimp Haven, the federally-funded chimpanzee sanctuary in Shreveport, La., has agreed to take these 26 chimpanzees. 

A copy of the letter is available here.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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