Kennedy asks NIH to transfer lab chimps to Chimp Haven

Louisiana

Jason Coats says he was forced to shoot an escaped chimp (not pictured) in self-defense after it escaped from a facility near his family’s home. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, La (BRPROUD/KTAL) – U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is calling out the National Institutes of Health, accusing the nation’s medical research agency of wasting taxpayer dollars and failing to follow federal law by keeping chimpanzees at labs in New Mexico and Texas instead of transferring them to the national sanctuary at Chimp Haven in Louisiana.

“Not only is Chimp Haven far better suited to meet the complex needs of chimpanzees previously used in biomedical research, but the cost of care is dramatically cheaper,” Kennedy wrote in a letter sent Thursday to NIH Director Francis Collins. “It appears the NIH is stonewalling Congress and failing to prioritize the welfare of these chimpanzees and the taxpayers’ wishes. The extraordinary conflict of interest and lack of transparency is deeply concerning.”

The Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenence, and Protection Act (CHIMP Act) mandates that any federally owned chimpanzees that aren’t needed for research be sent to the sanctuary. The NIH made a commitment to send government-owned chimpanzees to Louisiana in 2015.

“I am increasingly frustrated by the NIH’s refusal to meet its obligation and send the remaining government-owned chimpanzees held at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) in New Mexico and the Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Texas to Chimp Haven,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also said that by keeping the animals, NIH is spending up to five times more than what is necessary to house them compared to the safe haven, all on the taxpayers’ dime.

“It appears the NIH is stonewalling Congress and failing to prioritize the welfare of these chimpanzees and the taxpayers’ wishes,” Kennedy said. “The extraordinary conflict of interest and lack of transparency is deeply concerning.”

Elisabeth Jennings, executive director of Animal Protection New Mexico, said that NIH is ignoring federal law, betrayed taxpayers and Congress, and forgot about the animals.

“After decades of trauma and suffering in biomedical research, these chimps will thrive at Chimp Haven,” Jennings said.

Chimpanzees at the sanctuary can experience large social groups and a natural environment that stimulates their minds and helps them recover from the trauma that resulted from their time spent in laboratories.

“Not only is Chimp Haven far better suited to meet the complex needs of chimpanzees previously used in biomedical research, but the cost of care is dramatically cheaper,” Kennedy said.

Chimp Haven is the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world. It is a non-profit that houses more than 300 chimpanzees retired from lab research and is located in Keithville, Louisiana.

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