SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A federal judge in Maryland ruled in favor of animal rights activists and chimpanzees in a case brought against the National Institute of Health for violating the Chimpanzee Health, Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act.

The CHIMP Act created and funded the federal chimpanzee sanctuary system which includes Chimp Haven in northwest Louisiana.

The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection New Mexico, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and three individual plaintiffs were included in the lawsuit against NIH, filed in 2021.

The lawsuit claimed that the NIH violated the CHIMP Act by reneging on its commitment to provide sanctuary retirement for chimps owned or supported by the federal government by continuing to house dozens of chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico.

The judge’s order noted that the “plain and unambiguous language of the CHIMP Act mandates the transfer of all (Alamogordo) chimpanzees to Chimp Haven.”

“The CHIMP Act means exactly what it says: These chimps cannot be denied the sanctuary retirement they deserve,” Kitty Block, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said. “It is a win that the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland agreed with us that the law reflects a commitment to providing these chimps—who suffered years of invasive biomedical experiments—the highest standard of care possible.”

Subsequent proceedings will determine the next steps for NIH since the court determined they must transition the chimps into sanctuary retirement.

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Chimps are legally protected under the Endangered Species Act, and advances in non-animal research and testing ended federally sponsored research involving chimps in 2015. This led to NIH declaring that all federally owned chimpanzees were eligible for retirement to Chimp Haven, the national chimp sanctuary in Keithville, La., that includes the chimps that continue to be housed at the Alamogordo facility.

“Thirty chimp survivors are waiting in Alamogordo, New Mexico for the sanctuary they’ve been promised by our federal government. This decision affirms what we’ve asserted all along: by law, these chimpanzees have the right to live their best chimp lives in sanctuary,” Leslie Rudloff, Esq., chief program and policy officer, Animal Protection New Mexico, said.

Sara Amundson, President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund said that the organization worked closely with congressional champions who have made sanctuary retirement for these chimps to Chimp Haven a top priority.

Chimp Haven welcomed the last ten of 40 chimps in early December from a defunct wildlife refuge outside Los Angeles.