Monday, March 9, 2009

Chimps may be forced to retire

Allegations of abuse may spur Congress to ban experimentation.

WASHINGTON — Allegations that chimps were abused at a New Iberia lab may aid an effort in Congress to ban experimentation on great apes and require retirement of hundreds of chimps at federal research labs

The Great Ape Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., would immediately ban the breeding of chimps for federal research and send hundreds of chimpanzees to sanctuaries.
The bill has 22 co-sponsors, none from Louisiana. Supporters are looking for a sponsor in the Senate.
If the bill is approved, dozens of retired chimps are likely to be sent to Chimp Haven in Keithville, a sanctuary for chimps used in federal research.
The legislation failed to move in the last Congress, but accusations of animal cruelty at the New Iberia lab may give it new life.
This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would investigate allegations of abuse and neglect of chimps at the 100-acre New Iberia Research Center, where 325 chimps are kept. The research center also houses 6,000 monkeys.
Besides breeding primates for research purposes, the research center also experiments on the animals.
After a nine-month undercover investigation, the Humane Society reported to the USDA that chimps at the facility lived in isolation and exhibited self-mutilating behavior, psychosis and other emotional and physical problems. It said it had documented 338 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, a 1966 law that regulates animal research, transportation, exhibition and breeding.
The New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, denies the allegations.
The Humane Society also asked Gov. Bobby Jindal to immediately transfer 26 elderly chimps — the oldest is 51 — from the New Iberia center to a sanctuary, most likely Chimp Haven.
"If there's a way we can help, we're willing to help," Chimp Haven Director Linda Brent said.
Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle wrote Jindal this week that "some of the saddest stories to come out of our investigation were those of the 26, wild-caught elderly chimpanzees" housed at the New Iberia lab.
Jindal's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Chimp Haven is nearly at capacity, housing 132 chimps. But Brent said the facility could easily expand to hold 300 to 350 chimps with the help of federal or private funds.
The United States is the largest remaining user of chimpanzees for biomedical research. Austria, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom have banned or limited their use.
The Humane Society estimates chimpanzee research and maintenance costs taxpayers $20 million to $25 million per year, money the society says could be allocated to more effective research.

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