Chimp Haven sued by founding executive director
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2007:
SHREVEPORT–Chimp Haven founding executive director Linda
Koebner and eight co-plaintiffs in early December 2006 sued founding
president Linda Brent and board chair Tom Butler for allegedly
mismanaging the chimpanzee retirement colony “in violation of that
corporation’s purpose, to the detriment of the animals residing at
Chimp Haven, and to the detriment of fundraising and additional
grant opportunities on which Chimp Haven must rely to survive.”
Opened in 2003, Chimp Haven currently houses 89 former
laboratory chimps under contract with the National Institutes of
Health. The chimps belong to the NIH and technically could be
recalled to research use, but there has been little lab demand for
chimpanzees for more than 20 years.
The best-known chimps at Chimp Haven are the survivors of the
nine-member colony formerly kept by Ohio State University researcher
Sally Boysen, who were retired to Primarily Primates in February
2006. One chimp died on arrival at Primarily Primates. Another died
two months later. Necropsies found that both deaths were caused by
pre-existing heart ailments.
The seven remaining chimps were relocated from temporary
holding facilities at Primarily Primates to Chimp Haven on November
16, 2006, ostensibly for temporary caretaking until the legal
issues currently surrounding Primarily Primates are resolved.
Koebner’s lawsuit accuses Brent and Butler “of making poor
decisions about personnel and maintaining the chimps in social
groups,” wrote Janelle Rucker of the Shreveport Times. “One such
instance, the plaintiffs claim, led to the death of a chimp named
Woodruff. Placed with three aggressive male chimps, he was later
found dead from a heart attack,” allegedly from stress resulting
from being attacked by the others.
“The suit lists how the defendants ‘improperly and illegally’
suspended Koebner from the board of directors,” Rucker said. “To
remedy the situation, the group is asking for injunctions,
including the removal and replacement of Brent and Butler,
restoration of Koebner to the board, and an independent third-party
review of the conditions of the facility, its accounts, and its
Responded Chimp Haven spokesperson Rick DelaHaya, to Rucker,
“We are confident that when all the facts are presented, all the
allegations will be proved false, and we can continue the business
of taking care of the chimpanzees.”
The plaintiffs include, besides Koebner, Virginia Shehee,
Sharon Wright, Mary Jansen, Tim and Sarah Goeders, and Jan and
Frank Landon, all of Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and Cathie Neukum,
of New York.
Chimp Haven became controversial, even before it was built,
because of the chance that the resident chimps might be reclaimed by
the NIH for further experimentation.
The House of Representatives late in the 109th Congress
passed a bill which would have cancelled the recall possibility, but
the bill was stalled in the U.S. Senate by the opposition of Michael
B. Enzi (R-Wyoming), who argued that the NIH might eventually need
the Chimp Haven chimps to study an urgent threat such as bioterrorism.
“The U.S. government has so many chimps available for
experimentation that it plans to retire scores of them in the next
few months,” wrote Boston Globe staff reporter John Donnelly. Brent
told Donnelly that “At least 200 of the roughly 1,200 chimpanzees in
federal labs currently are not being used because of a lack of
“The federal Chimpanzee Manage-ment Program recently found
that the abundance of chimpanzees in laboratories was so great that
it recently extended a moratorium on chimpanzee breeding until the
end of next year,” Donnelly added.
Said New England Anti-Vivisection Society president Theo
Capaldo, “The chimpanzees who have finally made their way to
retirement are so battered and worn, so used up by science, that we
don’t call Chimp Haven a sanctuary. We call it a hospice.”