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Born Free USA Endorses Humane Care for Primates Act

Published: 11/21/13

Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Texas, home to 630 primates, would welcome primates from overseas who need lifetime care

Washington, D.C. -– Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, applauds U.S. Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) for introducing the Humane Care for Primates Act late yesterday, and urges the bill’s swift passage. The narrowly-crafted humane legislation seeks to correct an oversight in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulations governing the importation of nonhuman primates (NHPs), which currently prevent certified sanctuaries from saving animals at risk.

Current CDC regulations allow the importation of primates for “bona fide scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes,” which excludes sanctuaries and prevents needy primates overseas from being rescued by U.S. organizations. Meanwhile, zoos, circuses, universities, and other facilities are fundamentally unhampered in their acquisition of foreign primates.

According to Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, “While we always prefer for a wild animal to remain in its natural wild habitat, the reality is that this is not feasible for some primates. Those who have been forced to perform in circuses or held in captivity as pets are discarded when they are no longer ‘useful.’ They are physically and psychologically traumatized, and are likely to be placed in worse conditions or even put to death. If a U.S. sanctuary can rescue even one of these abused animals, then this legal change will be worthwhile.”

"Sanctuaries provide humane, lifetime care of primates, many of whom have been rescued from inhumane conditions," Ellmers said. "Compassionate care for deprived primates is very important to me and I am proud to have spearheaded this common-sense legislation to benefit animals in need."

This bill will require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include certified animal sanctuaries within the categories for which primates may be imported in the CDC regulations. Furthermore, the Secretary will establish a certification process for sanctuaries to ensure that only high-quality sanctuaries can participate under this new rule, such as those like the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, which is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

“I have championed wildlife protection issues for years, and it has become clear that the needs of neglected and abused primates abroad are the same as those here in the U.S.,” said DeFazio. “America is fortunate to have many accredited sanctuaries capable of making a difference for animals in need and we must ensure that this opportunity is open to them.”

Born Free USA knows first-hand the benefits of this change. The 186-acre Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary in Dilley, Texas is home to more than 600 primates, most rescued from deplorable circumstances. Roberts explains, “The conditions we have found many of these animals in is truly unimaginable and sickening – small cages in dark basements covered in their own feces. We are happy to be able to provide some of these victims with a large open place to live out their lives in freedom, with proper food and care, social interaction with other primates, and grass and trees for the first time in their lives.”

The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary has been asked to take in primates from similarly abusive circumstances abroad, but has sadly been unable to do so due to the CDC regulations. In 2011, the Princess Alia Foundation’s New Hope Centre in Amman, Jordan asked Born Free USA to import and provide permanent refuge for three vervet monkeys and nine baboons confiscated from severely inhumane circumstances in zoos and private possession. That same year, the Colobus Trust in South Coast, Diani Beach, Kenya requested that Born Free USA take a yellow baboon who was kept as a pet for two years and had developed behavioral issues, for which he was facing impending euthanasia. Despite being fully equipped to accept and care for these primates for the rest of their lives, as well as the ability to assist a foreign sanctuary in need, the current regulation forced the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary to deny these requests.

The changes this bill would provide are long overdue. Every day that sanctuaries are excluded from the regulations is another day that primates abroad are unable to experience compassionate care in the U.S. “Passage of the Humane Care for Primates Act is the humane decision,” Roberts emphasizes. These animals are suffering every day and deserve a second chance at life in a true sanctuary.”

This legislation is supported by Born Free USA and The Humane Society of the United States, as well as a number of other organizations including the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, Born Free Foundation (UK), Humane Society Legislative Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Animal Legal Defense Fund, WildLifeRisk, Animals Asia Foundation, Earthtrust, Care for the Wild International, and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade.  Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation" -- the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son Will Travers, now CEO of both organizations. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.



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