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Bipartisan Chimpanzee Retirement Legislation Passes Senate, Goes to President Obama for Signature

Humane Society Legislative Fund

A barrier in the way of government-owned chimpanzees in laboratories being transferred to sanctuaries has been cleared now that Congress has given final approval to support the project. The Senate gave final approval to the National Institutes of Health to spend money on sanctuary care and to begin fulfilling the agency’s pledge to move laboratory chimpanzees to sanctuaries, a move hailed by The Humane Society of the United States as game-changing for these great apes. Earlier this week, the House of Representatives approved that measure, which amends the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act.  The President is expected to sign the bill in the coming days.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said: “Chimps belong on grass and in trees, not behind bars in small cages in laboratories.  When the laboratory chimps claim their new homes in sanctuaries, we will have not only helped chimps, but restored our humanity by ending privation and misery for these animals.”

The HSUS thanks the House and the Senate for taking rapid action on this essential legislation this week, and particularly Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for their leadership. The HSUS urges President Obama to sign the bill immediately, as funding for chimpanzee sanctuary care is slated to run out by the end of this week.

The CHIMP Act of 2000 placed a limit on total sanctuary spending, but no such limit for maintaining chimpanzees in laboratories. After 13 years of cumulative spending, NIH had nearly reached the original $30 million cap on funding chimpanzee sanctuary care. Sanctuaries provide higher welfare standards for chimpanzees at a lower cost to taxpayers than maintaining them in barren labs.

The NIH has announced its intention to retire all but 50 of the approximately 360 government-owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to sanctuary, but needed the congressional fix to do so. The NIH has begun implementing most of the recommendations recently put forth by an independent expert advisory group on issues surrounding chimpanzee research and retirement. The “Working Group” was established to advise NIH on implementation of the findings of a 2011 Institute of Medicine study which determined that chimpanzees are unnecessary for most biomedical and behavioral research.

Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in response to a petition from The HSUS and other groups, has proposed protecting all chimpanzees, whether wild or in captivity, under the Endangered Species Act. While wild chimpanzees have long been recognized as endangered, existing regulations deprive captive chimpanzees in the U.S. of protection under the ESA. The current disparity in federal protection of wild and captive chimpanzees has facilitated exploitation of captive chimpanzees in the pet and entertainment trade and in invasive biomedical research, activities that undermine efforts to conserve the species in the wild. The proposed rule would rectify this disparity and require future use of captive chimpanzees to positively benefit the survival of the species in the wild.

“It’s been a remarkable year for chimps, with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of the Interior, and the Congress all taking distinct actions to help chimps and give them better lives in the future,” added Pacelle.

Media Contact: Samantha Miller: 301-258-1417; smiller@humanesociety.org

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