BREAKING NEWS: NIH reneges on promise, will not send 44 research chimpanzees to sanctuary

By on October 24, 2019 with 76 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

In a stunning about-face on its own promise, the National Institutes of Health today announced it will not send 44 chimpanzees, now held by the Alamogordo primate laboratory in New Mexico, to sanctuary.

Just last October, NIH Director Francis Collins reiterated the agency’s full commitment to retire all chimpanzees it owns or supports to the federal sanctuary Chimp Haven, saying that there would be very limited exceptions. These are animals who have spent their lifetimes in metal cages and they deserve to enjoy the rest of their days in an environment that simulates, to the best extent possible, the natural surroundings of a chimpanzee in the wild.

Dr. Collins had clearly stated that the only exception to retiring the chimpanzees would be in cases where relocation would severely or irreversibly accelerate deterioration of the chimpanzee’s physical or behavioral health. Today’s agency announcement contradicts that promise.

The NIH claimed that “it would be a serious risk to the chimpanzees’ health to move them.” There were many flaws with the process that the NIH followed in deciding the chimpanzees’ fate: the panel was certainly not “independent” as it was made up of the NIH’s own veterinarians and it did not include a veterinarian with sanctuary experience nor a primate behaviorist nor an ethicist. We expressed these concerns when the panel was created and had hoped they wouldn’t simply rubber-stamp the laboratory’s request to keep the chimpanzees confined at their facility for the rest of the animals’ lives while the laboratory continues to receive taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. There is no clear evidence that the long-term welfare of the chimpanzees was actually considered in making this decision.

We know that chimpanzees who are sent to sanctuary see an immense improvement in the quality of their lives. Since the inception of Chimp Haven, hundreds of chimpanzees, of all ages and health conditions, have moved there. There has not been a single death during transport and there are incredible stories of chimpanzees who have thrived at the sanctuary, including a chimpanzee named Grandma who was deemed as fragile when retired to Chimp Haven in 2005, yet lived happily there for another 10 years, reaching the age of 62.

We are putting the NIH on notice that this fight is not over. Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, and we share 99 percent of our DNA with these sentient and intelligent animals. The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund have been working for a long time to end the use of chimpanzees in experiments and to get them to retirement in sanctuary and we will not let the NIH blindside the American public and let the chimpanzees suffer through the rest of their lives in the confines of a laboratory. We’re evaluating our options for judicial review to compel the NIH to honor its obligation under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement and Maintenance Protection Act, which requires that all government-owned chimpanzees deemed no longer necessary for research should be retired to the national sanctuary. The NIH has a responsibility to all Americans to ensure that these animals, who have suffered their whole lives, finally get the quality of life — and a retirement — they deserve, at Chimp Haven.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Ask NIH to send the chimpanzees to sanctuary

Animal Research and Testing, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. John Bachman says:

    Is there no way somehow to get language in the NIH funding to pull funding for the chimps and direct they be retired?

  2. Robin Peacock says:

    Why? Is this really appropriate. Why torture animals and perform experiments. We gain nothing. Let them go into sanctuaries. Haven’t we as humans created enough harm in this World.

  3. Karen Gwaltney says:

    Because being imprisoned and experimented on is not a health risk!! Such gratuitous cruelty and hypocrisy. Shame!!

  4. Judy says:

    Why first of all do you think its ok to test on any animal ???? Second how do you ppl sleep at night ??? At least let them be happy for alittle while

  5. Kristine Ruffner says:

    These animals have, through no choice of their own, served the NIH long enough. That choice was made FOR THEM. And now, it’s time to pay them back for their service and allow them to retire in as natural a setting as possible, to live the rest of their lives as chimps, not guinea pigs. You made that promise. You need to keep it.

  6. mike corsello says:

    Post NIH contact info… phone and email address

  7. Kris R says:

    I’ve read the actual NIH statements on the medical evaluations of chimps that will not be transferred to Chimp Haven. What struck me was that so many of these chimps have medical conditions that appear to be untreated. This includes admitted uncontrolled hypertension, uncontrolled insulin dependent diabetes. Not just that, but a large number of the females are reported to have uterine masses. Plus conditions/injuries such as bilateral ruptured ACL’s, osteoarthritis, liver and kidney disease, cataracts….after all that I just had to stop reading.

    My question is this. Why would they not surgically treat a chimp with bilateral ruptured ACL’s, cataracts and other surgically treatable conditions? Why have so many not been properly treated for their uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension? Once treated, these chimps COULD be transferred out to Chimp Haven.

    These chimps – by no choice of their own – have been forced to serve the NIH for God only knows what kind of research. I think the very least the NIH could do was to provide medical treatment to improve the QOL for those chimps with treatable conditions, and allow them to transfer out. If they were suitable for experimentation because they are so similar to humans, that means they suffer just like humans do, and should be able to receive the same kinds of treatments a human would receive…especially for things like ruptured ACL’s, cataracts and uterine masses.

  8. Susan Vayette says:

    Please be decent human beings and release them to the sanctuary. How could be so cold and not care. If you have empathy and care you will do the right thing. My god have a heart please? Those sweet babies deserve to be in a sanctuary. Please please have a heart and help them. 💕

  9. Robin Cleaver says:

    Save them

  10. Annemarie Gallagher says:

    Good don’t do research on monkeys 🐒 anyway

  11. Annemarie Gallagher says:

    Good don’t do research on monkeys 🐒 anyway

  12. Kathy Roy says:

    Please send these Chimpanzees to a sanctuary. It would be cruel not too and we owe them. Aren’t there Federal Laws protecting animals now?

  13. Debbie Newton says:

    Please don’t go back on your promise of releasing chimpanzees!

  14. Debbie DuRee says:

    These animals deserve a decent life!

  15. Shelley Minden says:

    Please let these chimps retire.

  16. Anuca Pauser says:

    Please let them retire and sanctuaries.
    They suffered enough 😢

  17. Bettyweber says:

    Stop these experiments you promised to stop then you lied and went back to torturing the chimps .Stop this inhumane treatment niw.These are inocent animals put on earth by God for man to enjoy in their habitat.

  18. Mari Mennel-Bell says:

    As public employees, the NIH works for the public. The public is incensed that you are renigging on the promise to send these poor creatures to sanctuary NOW!

  19. Michelle Clancy says:

    The animals deserve the end of their lives in peace.

  20. Jennifer J. Boyd says:

    I am heartbroken that you, the National Institute for Health, can be so cruel as to not send these poor chimpanzees to a sanctuary. They have suffered so much, one day of suffering is too much. One hour of suffering is too much. How can you be so heartless? There is a special place in hell for people who are so terribly cruel.

  21. Lisa Noble says:

    This is appalling! These chimpanzees deserve some humanity.

  22. Patricia Clark says:

    Keep your word send these poor animals to the Sanctuary

  23. Tamra says:

    What is wrong with you people? Every being has the right to live in peace! Come on Hsus do something!

  24. Marilon G Furman says:

    This is absolutely horrendous! Quite honestly, I hope for only bad karma to happen to the people who have made this decision. Your disrespect for these beautiful creatures is obvious, and you should be SOOOOOO ashamed. Vile and disgusting; you should be caged and left alone to die.

  25. Candice Bagrosky says:

    These chimps have done enough , let them live out their lives in a sanctuary.

    They are intelligent animals and deserve peace after all these years if captivity.

  26. Betty Hagendoorn says:

    Hell for the chimpansees. And the people there came from hell.

  27. Kathie Jenni says:

    Please add my name to those outraged at and strongly protesting this despicable breaking of a pledge to release the apes to Sanctuary.

  28. Mary says:

    Please stop!!

  29. Sara Gonzalez says:

    Please help them!!

  30. Shawn Galleran says:

    Bull shit. Send them to the sanctuary

  31. Susan Bitd says:

    Who the hell do these ignorant people think they are
    Haven’t they done enough to these poor souls
    Let them go you bloody hypocrites
    Enough is enough !!!’nn

  32. Yvette Gaeta says:

    Have compassion for these living beings.

  33. Amy causey says:

    Please send them to a sanctuary. They need to live out their days with others

  34. Barbara Hanckel says:

    Totally disgusted by this news. These poor chimps have paid their dues and deserve to live out their lives in a sanctuary!

  35. Dianna Chatterton says:

    Stop hurting and abusing these innocent animals! Test on the death row inmates at all of the numerous prisons and leave animals alone. They deserve a better life free from pain and abuse!

  36. Leslie perris says:

    Please allow these poor animals who have suffered greatly to live out the rest of their lives in peace and away from the horrible life they suffered throughout the years

  37. Mary Wilkinson says:

    This decision is disgusting, cruel and reeks of cover up. What are they hiding or planning even more diabolical tests. ENOUGH! These animals should be seized immediately under a my/every animal/wildlife/primate protection law.
    nIH should stand for National Institute of Horrors.

  38. Jeanette Ortiz says:

    Please send these chimpanzees to a safe sanctuary where they live out their lives from abuse

  39. Corey Barnes says:

    How dare you go back on your decision.

  40. Lisa marie says:

    Shame on you people there is no place on this earth for animal cruelty of any kind.

  41. Janet White says:

    Subjecting chimps to this torture is antiquated and monstrous. These animals need to be retired to a sanctuary immediately.

  42. Eliza Bird says:

    This decision does not seem to have been made with the welfare of the 44 chimps at the forefront of the final outcome. I urge you to reconsider the decision.

  43. Selena says:

    Don’t be despicable. These are thinking, feeling creatures and all you can lean from them is how chimps react – and even that isn’t for their betterment. Do the decent thing.

  44. mary hayes says:

    send those remaining chimps to a sanctuary, you owe them that. shame on you to reneg on your responsibility. please reconsider, you will sleep better

  45. Valerie says:

    I am appalled that these animals are not allowed to retire to Chimp Haven. The excuse for not sending them is pathetic and it is bad enough that they were used for experiments in the first place but then not to give them a good quality of life afterwards, free from cages after the terribly confined lives they have led through no fault of their own is criminal. I do hope this matter will be reconsidered forthwith. Where is the compassion with these people?

  46. Virginia says:

    Please release the chimps as promised give them a better life then they had before.

  47. Trace Taylor says:

    This is just horrible. Why are we still experimenting on chimps? Use death row inmates at least they deserve it.

  48. Tanya Rafajlovski says:


  49. Michael says:

    Please help

  50. William ANDREWS says:


  51. Paula Guttilla says:

    This so Tragic

  52. Jessica Nelson says:

    Do the responsible thing!!!

  53. Karen says:

    Liars!! Abusers! Torturers! Keep your commitment! This is inhumane to not send the chimpanzees to sanctauary! They were promised a life of peace, freedom & and a return to health! Why did you move away from doing the compassionate thing? We know it’s a lie that moving them would be risky to them because of past experiences moving the chimpanzees. Go deep into your souls & pull that part of you up where you know what doing the right thing is!! Then do the right thing!!! Give these animals their life back. Do the right, compassionate thing!

  54. kathie bailey says:

    Again, our government proves that it cannot be trusted. Animal abuse and torture cannot be tolerated. Computor models are more accurate, but they do not generate money for the abusers.

  55. Merrie Froat says:

    Let them go free!

  56. Dawn Blasey says:

    I couldn’t bear to read the whole blog their butt I feel that this is a travesty I mean for those people to renege on the deal May to release retire those chimps from being experimented on is unbelievable to me and I hope I hope somebody can do something and please let me know if I can do anything thank you

  57. Nancy Verlinde says:

    It’s time we as humans did the right thing for once! Let these poor creatures of God go to the sanctuary! Please!!!

  58. Steinunn Pieper says:

    I live in Europe and want to sign your petition for chimpanzees – is the petition (all petitions) only for US and Canadian citizens?

  59. Laurie Peterson says:

    Good afternoon,
    I have the hope that you will honor your first promise to release these innocent primates. Please use another non animal source for your research. This is horribly inhumane.

  60. Nancy Currey says:

    Please, please give them a chance at a normal life…………………….you owe them that.

  61. Sandra Lawrence says:

    We call ourselves Humans we are not we are a disgrace !!! I don’t know how these people can sleep at night 😡😡😡

  62. Debbie Maiurro says:

    What if humans were treated in the same way they treat animals. Lock them on a cage and see how they do. This are intelligent creatures and I am sure this is not what God I intended fir them 🤬😢

  63. Cheryl Dawson says:

    Please keep your promise and release these chimps to a sanctuary. We as humans do not have the right to torture these animals. Imagine if you had to spend most of your life in a cage, being experimented on without ever feeling any kind of love. Please do the right thing and give them their freedom.

  64. Julie Ann Dominique says:

    Please let these amazing animals that you have held in captivity and experimented on for all these years go and live out their lives in the sanctuary as promised!

  65. Carina says:

    Todos los chimpancés deberían vivir en el santuario. Demasiado han padecido, merecen terminar sus vidas dignamente. Nunca alcanzarán a revertir el daño que les han hecho, pero esta es una oportunidad de devolverles algo. Traslado urgente!!!!

  66. Courtney Donahue says:

    We owe them this promise!

  67. Jess Mcgeady says:

    Really?! Wow

  68. Nita Westmoreland says:

    They need to be held to their promise. Send them to sanctuaries.

  69. Daniel Deloreto says:

    Let those poor chimps live a peaceful life! Let them be free of all the harm done to them by researchers!

  70. De Alberts says:

    This reversal is totally NOT acceptable 😡 these beautiful animals have been thru enough !! Let them go !! They are most deserving of a Sanctuary Life !!
    Your decision is wrong and your excuse is pathetic. LET THEM GO !!

  71. Bonni Taylor-Wilson says:

    A fundamental hallmark of integrity is honoring a commitment and demonstrating that your word has value. By refusing to follow through on your commitment to send these creatures to sanctuary after a lifetime of service to your research, you are showing the public that the NIH does not operate under any semblance of ethic, moral standard, or professional integrity. This truth will be remembered by the public and the NIH has lost all claims to meaningful character.

  72. Jesse Sarubbi says:

    Very disappointed in this lack of responsibility and humanity.

  73. Mary Fish6 says:

    Let them go to a Sanctuary. We don’t own them, it’s their lives, we’ve done enough damage.

  74. Caroline L Cooper says:

    Surely these chimps could be transferred in a gentle, minimally stressful way to Chimp Haven? And then introduced to their new, happier surroundings in an equally gentle way? They deserve some TLC after a lifetime of misery.

  75. Lesley Scharf says:

    Are we witnessing an era in which people lie and go back on their word and it is acceptable practice? The chimps gave served time and deserve peace and joy fir the sacrifices they have made. They are so bright; they deserve respect and an opportunity to have a retirement in a sanctuary. Who will step up to assure they are treated fairly, as originally promised?

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