22 Jan (N.Y. TIMES) – Almost all of the 451 chimpanzees owned or supported by the National Institutes of Health that are now at research facilities should be permanently retired from research and moved to sanctuaries, with planning for the move to start immediately, a report from an N.I.H. council unanimously recommended Tuesday. The report, approved by the N.I.H. Council of Councils, is the latest step in a process that began more than two years ago when the agency began to review its use of chimpanzees in research.Its recommendations will be open to public comment for 60 days, and in late March, Dr. Francis S. Collins, the N.I.H. director, will decide whether to put them into effect. He already accepted guidelines for reducing the use of chimpanzees that formed the basis of the current recommendations.
Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “We are very pleased with these recommendations. Importantly, they did not recommend future breeding.”
The report says that for the future, only a small colony of about 50 chimps should be kept for the possibility of new research, which would have to be approved by an independent committee, including representation from the public.
Of the 451 N.I.H. chimps, 282 are available for research and 169 are considered inactive but are not permanently retired. An additional 219 chimpanzees owned or supported by the agency are already retired and are either at a sanctuary or headed for one. About 350 more chimps at research laboratories are owned by universities or private companies, according to the Humane Society.
The report also proposes standards for the social and physical welfare of N.I.H. chimps, including requirements that they live in groups of at least seven, have a minimum of 1,000 square feet per chimp, room to climb, access to the outdoors in all weather and opportunities to forage for food. “Not a single laboratory in the United States meets these recommendations,” Ms. Conlee said.
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