OSU chimps leaving retirement sanctuary
Controversy has been building about conditions at the 28-year-old facility.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Seven chimpanzees that had been used in research at Ohio State University were removed from a primate retirement center that a court-appointed caregiver said couldn't attend to the animals' needs.
Deputy sheriffs helped escort the chimps out of Primarily Primates Inc. in San Antonio on Thursday for a trip to Chimp Haven in Shreveport, La.
"They'll have open grass and big trees and acres to roam," said Lee Theisen-Watt, the court-appointed caregiver.
The chimps, used for cognitive research at Ohio State, were transferred from the university to Primarily Primates in March in a more than 300,000 contract.
Since then, controversy has been building about conditions at the 28-year-old facility.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with the state attorney general's office, and Theisen-Watt temporarily was placed in charge of Primarily Primates by a judge last month when the attorney general stepped in and seized the facility under a court order.
The judge gave Theisen-Watt the authority to transfer animals to other facilities.
The sanctuary, which holds an estimated 800 monkeys, chimps, jungle cats and other animals, was in terrible condition, Theisen-Watt said. She cited examples of animals overcrowded in cages, ditches of stagnant animal waste and a chimp named Darrell housed alone in a dark, hot enclosure teeming with flies.
Representatives of Primarily Primates have persistently disputed the allegations and said the animals were well cared for. Sanctuary founder Wally Swett said he would continue the legal fight to win back the seven chimps.
The animal rights group Friends of Animals is backing the sanctuary and paying its legal bills.
The group's president, Priscilla Feral, called the takeover an attempt "to kill as many animals as possible." She cited the request by Theisen-Watt for court permission to euthanize animals deemed too sick or too injured to be rehabilitated.
The seven chimps taken to Louisiana were among 12 primates transferred from Ohio State. Originally nine chimps and three monkeys were moved, but a monkey escaped on the day of arrival and two chimps, Kermit and Bobby, died within two months of coming to the 75-acre compound.