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NIH Needs To Make Good On Chimpanzees’ Psychological Well-Being


NIH Needs To Make Good On
Chimpanzees’ Psychological Well-Being

BOSTON, MA(February 2012)The Bioethics of Great Ape Well-Being: Psychiatric Injury and Duty of Care, recently published in the Animals & Society Institute’s (ASI) Public Policy series, asserts that historically and to date the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and research facilities have failed in their legal duty to protect captive great apes by not preventing foreseeable trauma of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other psychological injuries.

The paper cites the case of Jeannie (Ch-562), used from age 6 to 22 in three inspected laboratories prior to her 1997 rescue and 2007 death in sanctuary. Jeannie exhibited self-injurious behavior, trance-like and anxious states, tremors, poor coordination and other maladies. In one lab alone, she was “knocked-down” (anesthesia by dart gun) over 200 times and subjected to invasive liver, cervical, and lymph-node biopsies, HIV, and hepatitis infections. After suffering “a nervous breakdown,” she was removed from research, unsuccessfully treated with drugs, and isolated in a 5’x5’x7’ cage until her rescue. At this lab, chimpanzees were provided only a single hanging tire inside their barren cages.

The Animal Welfare Act states that the “Secretary [of Agriculture] shall promulgate… minimum promote the psychological well-being of primates.”  However, as study co-author, psychologist and NEAVS president, Theodora Capaldo, EdD, states, “Existing legal requirements for statutory duty of care for great ape psychological well-being are not sufficient, met, or enforced.  While labs know the cause and impact of stress on chimpanzees, they fail to adequately protect chimpanzees’ psychological well-being.”

Capaldo insists, “Chimpanzees are as highly social and emotionally complex as humans. The status quo is lip service to federal law that affirms that like us, chimpanzees suffer when confined and made to live in a powerless world under the continual threat of harm. The NIH and USDA must recognize that the psychological well-being of chimpanzees can never be met in the laboratory environment. As NIH considers The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) restrictive criteria for chimpanzee use, NIH must make it their high priority to release chimpanzees to sanctuary care.”

Study co-author and Kerulos Center Executive Director, Gay Bradshaw PhD, PhD, adds, “Science and ethics compel that standards governing humans—the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, the Declaration of Helsinki, and the Geneva Convention—should logically extend to great apes.”

According to Capaldo, while the NIH’s acceptance of  IOM’s December report noting that “most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary,” and the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 1513/S.810) before Congress are key steps to end the use of chimpanzees in research, further protections are needed immediately.

Approximately 1000 chimpanzees remain in U.S. laboratories.

NEAVS (New England Anti-Vivisection Society), The Kerulos Center and Animals and Society Institute are national 501 (c) 3s. Visit,,, and