Chico, a 25-year old chimpanzee, spends his days in solitary confinement at a roadside zoo in South Carolina. As a result of his deprivation, he engages in stereotypic rocking, pacing, and head bobbing, indicators that Chico is psychologically ill. Aberrant behaviors such as this would not be seen if he were in a natural environment. Chico is not alone. "It is still common practice in research institutions to keep nonhuman primates singly housed in subminimal sized cages with little to do but engage in stereotypical locomotion or behavioral pathologies resulting from boredom and frustration," said Viktor Reinhardt, AWI's Laboratory Animal Advisor, who was the clinical veterinarian in a primate research facility for more than a decade.
More than 100,000 non-human primates, intelligent, social beings, are confined in zoos, experimental laboratories, and dealer premises across the country. Each of these individuals deserves to be housed in an enriched environment with the opportunity to share it with at least one companion. In 1985 Congress concurred with this perspective and adopted an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) mandating "a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological wellbeing of primates." This would include providing the animals with companions, sufficient space to engage in species-typical locomotion, elevated resting structures, foraging devices and manipulanda (toys).
On July 22, the Animal Welfare Institute joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and three individuals in bringing suit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its failure to adequately implement this vital legal mandate. Four years ago, the USDA had developed a detailed, scientifically sound Policy providing comprehensive information on how to promote psychological well-being of primates (see AWI Quarterly, Fall 2002). If finalized, this report would be of practical help to USDA inspectors who must enforce the law and to primate facilities licensed or registered under the AWA. However, USDA has shelved this Policy.
AWI's lawsuit would require USDA to make a final decision regarding its Primate Policy within 30 days. As world-renowned chimpanzee expert and friend of AWI, Jane Goodall, noted, "It is a disgrace that after all these years Congressional intent has been brushed aside at the expense of these magnificent beings."
AWI is grateful for the legal representation provided by Wendy Anderson of ALDF and the law firm of Meyer & Glitzenstein.