KEITHVILLE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – KEITHVILLE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Sen. John Kennedy of (R-La.) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D.-Ill.) introduced a bill on Wednesday to require all chimps used in Air Force research facilities be sent to the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La.

According to Sen. Kennedy, the federal government is housing chimps that are no longer involved in research. “The Chimp Sanctuary Act would save American tax dollars and give these chimps a better quality of life,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. The bill proposes that the Air Force no longer house chimpanzees at any of their facilities. All chimpanzees currently housed in Air Force installations would be transported to the Chimp Haven sanctuary no later than 180 days after the bill’s enactment.

In a letter sent to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Francis Collins on Nov. 4, Sen. Kennedy condemned what he says is a waste of taxpayer dollars and the NIH’s failure to follow federal law. The letter says the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico and the Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research in Texas spend between three to five times the cost to house the chimps at the sanctuary each year.

“For years, 34 chimpanzees—that are no longer needed for government research—have been held on the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in clear violation of the CHIMP Act. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Senator Kennedy in order to right this wrong and help safely transport these chimps to Chimp Haven where they can be properly cared for and live full, healthy lives,” said Sen. Duckworth.

The bipartisan bill was also signed by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

Expressing his frustration with the NIH, Sen. Kennedy said, “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 CHIMP Act created a system of sanctuaries for chimpanzees designated as no longer needed in research and requires that the government provide for the permanent retirement of all surplus chimpanzees. The bill fails to further define the criteria of when chimps are no longer needed. It is still up to each laboratory’s discretion when a chimpanzee is eligible for retirement.

The Secretary shall provide for the establishment and operation in accordance with this section of a system to provide for the lifetime care of chimpanzees that have been used, or were bred or purchased for use, in research conducted or supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, or other agencies of the Federal Government, and with respect to which it has been determined by the Secretary that the chimpanzees are not needed for such research (in this section referred to assurplus chimpanzees’).

42 USC 283m(a)

Chimp Haven was established as part of the Federal Sanctuary System by the CHIMP Act to provide long-term care for chimpanzees bred or purchased for use in research. Caddo Parish provided the sanctuary with 200 acres of forested land in the Eddie D. Jones Nature Park for their use. They care for more than 330 chimpanzees in an outdoor habitat that allows the chimps to have large social groups, access to enrichment, and veterinary care.