Protecting the Psychological Well-being of Primates Used in Research

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit to compel the USDA to respond to a petition for rulemaking requesting the agency promulgate standards to promote the psychological well-being of primates used in research.

Updated

November 18, 2019

Work Type

Litigation

Status

Active

Filed lawsuit on November 6, 2019

Next Step

Government files response to complaint

Due January 6, 2020

In November 2019, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and a coalition of animal protection groups filed a lawsuit to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to respond to a requesting the agency promulgate standards to promote the psychological well-being of primates used in research. The coalition includes the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), and the International Primate Protection League (IPPL). The coalition is represented by Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic.

The lawsuit is a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief to require the USDA to provide a substantive response to the petition for rulemaking that was submitted to the agency by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and NEAVS on May 7, 2014. (Plaintiff IPPL joined as an additional petitioner on May 19, 2015.) The agency has failed to provide a substantive response to the petition, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

That petition asks USDA to adopt standards similar to those adopted in 2013 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for chimpanzees used in federally funded research. The requested standards would bring the agency into compliance with the Animal Welfare Act’s mandate that the agency “shall promulgate standards … for a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates.” Those standards are not currently being met.

Who is being sued, why, and under what law? Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to take any action on a 2014 petition for rulemaking requesting the agency promulgate standards to promote the psychological well-being of primates used in research.

Why this case is important: Nonhuman primates, such as apes and monkeys, are highly intelligent animals with complex psychological and physical needs. But regulations do not currently impose specific standards for a physical environment that is adequate to ensure the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates used in research.

The requested regulations are necessary to provide all nonhuman primates used in research the environmental enrichment they need — and to establish clear, specific standards that can be uniformly implemented and enforced by the USDA across research institutions as required by the AWA.

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