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Second Opinion

Learn about policy issues important to medical schools and teaching hospitals, with Executive Vice President Atul Grover, M.D., Ph.D.

Animal Research

Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act

On April 13, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) reintroduced legislation (H.R. 1513, S. 810) that would ban “invasive” research on chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, or gibbons. Similar to legislation introduced in the previous Congress, the bill prohibits any research that “may cause death, injury, pain, distress, fear, or trauma” to the animal, including drug testing, restraining, tranquilizing, anesthetizing, isolation, social deprivation, and other activities.

The measure, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011, requires that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) permanently retire all great apes owned by the federal government for research within three years of enactment. Unlike previous iterations of the bill, H.R. 1513 also establishes a “Great Ape Sanctuary System Fund,” which would allow the HHS Secretary to direct funding collected from civil penalties under the measure—$10,000 a day for each violation – to construct, renovate, and operate sanctuaries.

The bill calls for an immediate prohibition on research for great apes that are not assigned to an active protocol upon the bill’s enactment, and allows up to three years for those “supported by, or used pursuant to, public or private funding that requires invasive research.” Prohibitions on housing great apes and the use of federal funding to conduct research on a great ape or to “support an entity conducting or facilitating invasive research on a great ape” take effect within three years, while all other activities banned under the measure—including breeding, transport, and the transfer of great apes to non-federal, unapproved sanctuaries—become effective once the measure is signed into law.

The AAMC joined more than 30 members of the biomedical research community in opposing  the bill in the last Congress because it would “inhibit medical advances and the research community’s quest to improve human health through new treatments and vaccines for the treatment and prevention of disease.”

A bipartisan total of 42 representatives joined Rep. Bartlett as original cosponsors of H.R. 1513, which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) co-sponsored the Senate version, which was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.