USDA Publishes And Requests Public Comment On Rulemaking Petition For Better Standards To Protect Primates Used In Research

Today, the USDA published in the Federal Register for public comment a petition we filed last year on behalf of several clients, seeking stronger mandatory standards for the psychological well-being of primates used in research. The Petition, which can be found here, was filed on behalf of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, the Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. It asked the USDA to adopt as standards under the Animal Welfare Act the recommendations recently accepted by the National Institute of Medicine for "ecologically appropriate environments" for chimpanzees used in federally-funded research, and to apply those standards to all non-human primates used in all research.  The AWA was amended in 1985 to require the USDA to issue "minimum standards" for a "physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates."  Since then, the USDA has failed to promulgate effective standards requiring primates to be housed socially and to be provided basic environmental enrichment -- the agency’s own enforcement personnel have complained that the current standards are weak and unenforceable.  The Petition requests that the agency adopt new standards, based on scientific evidence and expertise from the world’s leading primate experts, that would require all research facilities to provide for the psychological well-being of primates by requiring them to be housed in social groups, and providing them various forms of additional environmental enhancement, including access to outdoors, and opportunities for choice and self-determination – all vital to primates’ psychological well-being.  The Petition has been given the Docket No. APHIS - 2014-0098-1, and the USDA will receive public comment until June 30, 2015.