Notice of Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare Statement on Oversight of NIH-owned Chimpanzees
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

November 5, 2020

Related Announcements

NOT-OD-10-121 - Report on Site Visits to Chimpanzee Facilities and Associated Resources to Aid Grantee Institutions

NOT-OD-17-010 - Reports on Site Visits to the National Primate Research Centers and the Federally Supported Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Issued by

Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)


The purpose of this Notice is to announce a statement from the Director, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) regarding the restricted transportation of significantly compromised NIH-owned chimpanzees.

Position Statement

The Director, Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) has the delegated authority from the NIH Director under Section 495 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act, as added by the Health Research Extension Act of 1985, for overseeing compliance with the PHS Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (Policy) in PHS-conducted or supported activities. The PHS Policy, section II requires that all PHS-conducted or supported activities involving animals are required to comply, as applicable, with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), and other Federal statutes and regulations relating to animals.

All facilities that house, care for, or are engaged in the transport of NIH-owned chimpanzees are subject to the AWA and implementing regulations, the Health Research Extension Act of 1985, and the PHS Policy. Moreover, the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF) is a government-owned, contractor-operated federal research facility, conducting non-invasive sample collection and observational behavioral studies. As such, under § 2143(c) of the AWA, “In the case of Federal research facilities…[the] head of the Federal agency conducting the research shall be responsible for (1) all corrective action to be taken at the facility; and (2) the granting of all exceptions to inspection protocol.” See also 9 CFR § 2.37.

The Animal Welfare Regulations at 9 CFR § 2.38(h) prohibit a research facility, including a Federal research facility, from delivering a nonhuman primate to any intermediate handler or carrier for transportation unless the nonhuman primate is accompanied by a health certificate executed and issued by a licensed veterinarian. Prior to issuing the health certificate, the licensed veterinarian must have inspected the animal and “when so inspected, the… nonhuman primate [must have] appeared to the licensed veterinarian to be free of any infectious disease or physical abnormality which would endanger the animal(s) or other animals or endanger public health.” Additionally, 9 CFR § 3.90(c) states that “If a nonhuman primate is obviously ill, injured, or in physical distress, it must not be transported…” As such, the Director, OLAW has determined that transporting chimpanzees assessed by the facility veterinarian and the NIH Veterinary Panel to be significantly compromised by disease or exhibiting difficulty maintaining quality of life would be a violation of the AWA regulations, and therefore, the PHS Policy.

It is the OLAW Director’s further determination that the frailest chimpanzees must remain in their current location in keeping with the regulatory requirements of the AWA and the PHS Policy, and in the interest of each animal’s welfare, health, and social grouping.


In January 2018, NIH charged the Council of Councils with assembling a working group to assess the safety of relocating at-risk chimpanzees. The Working Group was to provide advice and recommendations on factors to be considered by attending veterinarian staff when deciding whether to relocate NIH-owned or supported chimpanzees between federally supported facilities and the federal chimpanzee sanctuary, Chimp Haven, Inc. In May 2018, the Working Group presented their findings to the Council of Councils, which subsequently adopted the report and recommendations and transmitted them to NIH for consideration. In June 2018, the NIH issued a request for information (2018-12458 and NOT-OD-18-191), open until August 10, 2018, to obtain broad input and to inform the agency in its decisions regarding the Working Group’s recommendations. In October 2018, the NIH released a report summarizing the public comments and announcing its decisions on assessing the safety of relocating at-risk chimpanzees owned or supported by NIH to the federal chimpanzee sanctuary system.

In November 2018, NIH established a panel of NIH veterinarians with chimpanzee or other non-human primate expertise (Panel) independent from the NIH Chimpanzee Management Program, external stakeholder groups or organizations, and sites holding chimpanzees. The Panel was established to review the records of at-risk chimpanzees when the attending veterinarian determined that a chimpanzee should not move to Chimp Haven, Inc. because of health or welfare-related concerns. In addition to medical records, this review included discussing with the attending veterinarian his/her rationale for not signing the health certificate necessary for transfer, and consulting with other veterinary specialists who have examined the animals, and if needed, examining the chimpanzees to determine if the chimpanzees should be relocated or remain at their current facility. The Panel met for the first time in February 2019 to begin reviewing records for at-risk, NIH-owned chimpanzees located at the APF .

In September 2019, the Panel completed its APF review following a protocol they developed to ensure uniform standards. The Panel agreed with the APF attending veterinarian’s decision about which animals should remain at APF. The Panel prepared one-page summaries of their review of each chimpanzee at APF.

In April 2020, OLAW was asked to review the statement in NIH’s Announcement of Agency Decisions report (p. 7) and determine whether the transportation of chimpanzees assessed by the facility veterinarian and the NIH Veterinary Panel to be significantly compromised by disease or exhibiting difficulty maintaining quality of life would be a violation of the AWA regulations, and therefore, the PHS Policy. OLAW concluded that the transportation of significantly compromised chimpanzees would violate AWA regulations and the PHS Policy, as described above.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW)
Telephone: 301-496-7163

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