Breaking: Federal judge rules NIH broke the law by denying sanctuary retirement to former research chimps

Breaking: Federal judge rules NIH broke the law by denying sanctuary retirement to former research chimps

BALTIMORE, Maryland (December 15, 2022)—On Tuesday, a Maryland federal judge ruled that the National Institutes of Health cannot lawfully refuse to retire federally owned chimpanzees formerly used for research to Chimp Haven, the federal chimpanzee sanctuary. The decision was issued in a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Protection New Mexico, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and three individual plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs sued NIH in 2021, after the agency reneged on its commitment to sanctuary retirement for all chimps owned or supported by the federal government. Instead, NIH decided to retain dozens of chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility—the same New Mexico laboratory where they were previously used in experiments—for the remainder of their lives. Tuesday’s ruling held that NIH’s decision was unlawful under the Chimpanzee Health, Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act, a 2000 law that created and funded the federal chimpanzee sanctuary system. Thirty chimps currently remain at the Alamogordo facility.

“The CHIMP Act means exactly what it says: These chimps cannot be denied the sanctuary retirement they deserve,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “It is a win that the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland agreed with us that the law reflects a commitment to providing these chimps—who suffered years of invasive biomedical experiments—the highest standard of care possible.”

Due to advances in non-animal methods of research and testing, and changes in their legal status under the Endangered Species Act, chimpanzees have not been used in federally sponsored research since 2015. NIH had previously declared all remaining federally owned chimpanzees, including the Alamogordo chimps, eligible for retirement to Chimp Haven, a well-equipped sanctuary that provides superior veterinary and behavioral care and an open, natural living environment.

“Thirty chimp survivors are waiting in Alamogordo, New Mexico for the sanctuary they’ve been promised by our federal government. This decision affirms what we’ve asserted all along: by law, these chimpanzees have the right to live their best chimp lives in sanctuary,” said Leslie Rudloff, Esq., chief program and policy officer, Animal Protection New Mexico.

The order noted that NIH had violated the law because “the plain and unambiguous language of the CHIMP Act mandates the transfer of all [Alamogordo] chimpanzees to Chimp Haven.” Further proceedings will follow to determine how NIH must proceed in light of the court’s ruling.

"Congress passed the CHIMP Act expressly to retire federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuary. This court agrees that NIH cannot simply disregard federal law and we heartily concur," said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, "While NIH has continued to allow these chimps to languish in laboratory warehouses, HSLF has been working closely with congressional champions who have prioritized ensuring these chimps go home to Chimp Haven. We urge the Administration to heed this court's ruling, as well as the law, now."

All plaintiffs are represented by attorneys in the Animal Protection Law department of the Humane Society of the United States.

Media contacts:
HSUS/HSLF: Emily Ehrhorn, (202) 779-1814,
APNM: Leslie Rudloff, Esq., (505) 554-8610,


The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. Visit us on all our channels: on the web at, on our blog at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates around the globe fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, the HSUS takes on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries, and together with its affiliates, rescues and provides direct care for over 100,000 animals every year. The HSUS works on reforming corporate policy, improving and enforcing laws and elevating public awareness on animal issues. More at

Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.

Animal Protection of New Mexico is a statewide nonprofit that protects animals by creating social change resulting in the humane treatment of all animals. We create policies, infrastructure, and services that protect animals and strengthen our communities, and we design and implement humane and pragmatic solutions to seemingly intractable problems involving animals. We change entrenched systems that harm animals, demonstrating to the public and policymakers that the wellness of our society overall is directly and inextricably linked to the wellbeing of all animals.

For more information about Animal Protection of New Mexico, please visit our website, follow us on Facebook, on Instagram @animalprotectionnewmexico, on Twitter @apnm, and view our latest video about the Alamogordo chimpanzees at