Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Congress Guarantees Sanctuary for Retired Medical Research Chimps

The Jane Goodall Institute hailed Wednesday's signing into law of the Chimp Haven is Home Act, a bill that will ensure chimpanzees living in sanctuary after years of medical research in government-funded facilities will not be returned to the labs. The bill was passed in the final days of the session before Congress adjourned for the holiday recess.

Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), whose district is home to Chimp Haven, the official sanctuary for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) chimpanzees, was the original sponsor of the legislation, along with Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.), along with Reps. John Dingell (D-Mi.) and Joe Barton (R-Tx.), offered critical support for the bill's passage. The bill passed the Senate two weeks ago, where it was sponsored by Senator Burr (R-Nc.), along with Senators Richard Durbin (D-Il.), Mary Landrieu, (D-La.) and David Vitter (R.-La).

The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act (CHIMP Act), enacted in 2000, established a national sanctuary system for retirement of chimps no longer needed in medical research. A last-minute amendment to the law allowed chimps retired under the law's provisions to be removed from sanctuary for further testing under certain circumstances.

To date, no retired chimp has been removed from sanctuary. Still, Chimp Haven, located in Keithville, La., has had trouble raising the private funds required under the law's provisions to match government funding. According to the president of the sanctuary's board of directors, Dr. Linda Brent, private donors are reluctant to fund a sanctuary where there is any potential that chimpanzees will be returned to medical testing.

"This legislation is really the only responsible thing to do for chimpanzees who have spent their lives in medical research," said Dr. Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, who met with legislators about the measure during recent trips to Washington, D.C. "The legislators who sponsored this bill and helped pass it should be commended for recognizing its importance."

The provision of the CHIMP Act that this legislation removes has been a concern to the Jane Goodall Institute and Chimp Haven since it was originally passed. "We have worked tirelessly together to close this loophole," said Bill Johnston, president of the Jane Goodall Institute and author of JGI's new blog. "Now we can rest assured that chimpanzees retired from years of service in NIH biomedical labs will spend the remainder of their days in the sanctuary."

Story here.

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