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CHIMP Act Contract Would Return Chimpanzee Infants to Research Labs
Implementation of the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act, passed last December, has taken a bizarre turn in the retirement of chimpanzees no longer needed for research. In the Request for Proposals issued by the National Institutes for Health in late September, the Statement of Work specifically states that,
"Any chimpanzee that is born at any of the NIH-sponsored sanctuary sites must be removed, probably with its mother, within 30 days of birth at the Contractor's cost."
This requirement, which designates for research any chimpanzee born accidentally to a mother already in a sanctuary, sets the tone for much of the RFP, which ignores the purpose of the Act-to give chimpanzees a better life outside of the laboratory-as well as the clear language of the CHIMP Act in establishing the terms of the contract.
While this unconscionable requirement is buried deep within the 99-page document soliciting bids for the contract to retire chimpanzees, there are other serious concerns that have been raised in studying the provisions of the RFP. One of the chief problems lies in the nature of the RFP itself, which should be contracting for
"a non-profit private entity under which the entity has the responsibility of operating (and establishing, as applicable) the sanctuary system and awarding subcontracts or grants to individual sanctuary facilities that meet the standards under subsection
(d)." Instead, the RFP is soliciting bids from sanctuaries directly, with the system to be administered directly by the NIH, and requiring that the sanctuary be capable of accepting up to 412 chimpanzees within the first two years.
The NIH, which received authorization from the Secretary of Health and Human Services earlier this year to administer implementation of the CHIMP Act, has issued a document that appears to have little resemblance to the establishment of a sanctuary system as envisioned by the Act.
The ideal sanctuary, as outlined in the RFP, would be neither cost-effective, nor serve the best interests of the chimpanzees for whom they were created. Instead, this RFP is creating a bureaucratic burden on the sanctuaries themselves that serve neither the interests of the economy nor the welfare of the animals by requiring compliance with laboratory standards instead of those more applicable to a socialized community of animals.
In addition to the infant chimpanzee provision, some of the many other problems include:
The CHIMP Act requires the award of a contract to a private nonprofit entity with a specified board of directors whose purpose is
"operating the sanctuary system and awarding subcontracts or grants to individual sanctuary facilities that meet the standards under subsection (d)." This RFP requires that respondents to the RFP themselves adhere to standards and specifications intended for the oversight board and not for the sanctuary operators.
The RFP requires sanctuaries bidding on the contract to adhere to guidelines and requirements that govern animals in laboratories, even though the situations are not analogous. One of the cost-effective advantages of a sanctuary setting, compared to a laboratory setting, is that many of the requirements for research-oriented laboratories are not applicable to sanctuaries. Adherence to laboratory standards in a sanctuary will not benefit the animals.
The RFP clearly favors large sanctuary facilities by the terms of the contract. For example, the requirements for planning for up to 900 chimpanzees and the reporting and staffing requirements may unnecessarily eliminate the participation of smaller and more experienced entities in the sanctuary system.
In testimony before the House Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment on May 18, 2000, John Strandberg, Director of the Comparative Medicine area of the National Center for Research Resources at NIH said that there were
'no' surplus chimpanzees available for retirement. The RFP refers to a NIH survey that identified a need for placement for
412 animals in the next two years, with a potential for up to 900 in the next 10 years. Are all of these animals slated for permanent retirement, as required under the Act?
While the CHIMP Act clearly spells out that chimpanzees going to sanctuaries under the Act would be retired permanently, without further research conducted except for noninvasive, observational studies, the RFP makes numerous mentions of permits that would be needed to conduct behavioral, noninvasive AND invasive biomedical research. Since such research in not permitted under the CHIMP Act, why was it included in the RFP?
While the RFP prohibits any monies received under the contract from being used for the conduct of experiments, it does not bar the use of chimpanzees in the system for such experimentation.
In fact, the RFP seems to provide incentives for a "sanctuary" to seek outside funding from entities wishing to conduct research on the chimpanzee population in order to subsidize levels of funding for the sanctuary generally.
In summary, the RFP's overall approach is inconsistent with the structure and intent of the CHIMP Act. The RFP should be directed at soliciting bids from non-profit private entities that will have the ability to operate a system, and not to individual sanctuary facilities. Once a non-profit entity is selected, this entity should, according to the specific language of the statute, have flexibility to allocate resources and animals. While the RFP is overly prescriptive regarding specific onerous reporting requirements, it is oddly permissive regarding research allowed in the sanctuaries.
This RFP should be withdrawn and a new RFP developed with input from the animal welfare community. The revised RFP should reflect the statute that this process is purported to serve.
Please call your Senator/Member of Congress and ask for a review of the implementation process for the CHIMP Act, which was unanimously passed last year. To find out if your representatives were co-sponsors of the HR.
For more information on the RFP or specific objections, please contact Marcia Kramer, Director of Legal/Legislative Programs, The National Anti-Vivisection Society at 1-800-888-6287, or e-mail MKramer@navs.org.