PORTLAND, Ore. –A federal court in Oregon has become the latest battleground over the care of chimpanzees and other animals at a Texas animal sanctuary now under new management.
A lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Eugene claims that two chimpanzees, 12 gibbons and a longhorn steer transferred from Primarily Primates Inc. in San Antonio should remain in the care of other animal sanctuaries in Oregon, South Carolina and New Mexico.
The two chimpanzees, named Emma and Jackson, are currently living at Chimps Inc., a nonprofit private sanctuary in Bend, while the dozen gibbons are living at the International Primate Protection League sanctuary in South Carolina. The steer is being kept by Marguerite Gordon, a landowner who lives in New Mexico and offers refuge for animals, according to the complaint.
The case appears to have pitted various animal rights advocates against each other over the quality of care for animals discarded by researchers, owners and even zoos.
Eric Turton, an attorney for Primarily Primates in Texas, called the sanctuary near San Antonio a “retirement home for animals.”
But Bruce Wagman, a San Francisco attorney who filed the lawsuit, said it was an example of “institutional hoarding,” and claimed the Texas facility simply cannot effectively manage hundreds of animals its care, including more than 60 chimps.
“That facility can never come back up to speed,” Wagman said Monday.
Turton said, however, that the Texas facility founded in 1978 has been unfairly attacked recently by animal rights activists who have made allegations dismissed by the courts in Texas.
In April, a Texas judge ended a legal battle over control of Primarily Primates after the Texas attorney general’s office seized the roughly 75-acre sanctuary last October and appointed a receiver to manage it while allegations of misspent donations and substandard conditions were investigated.
“There was zero misuse of anything,” Turton said. “Not one penny. It’s never the findings of the court, it’s always just ‘allegations.’ This is just ridiculous.”
The judge ordered management of the Texas facility turned over to Priscilla Feral, who runs the global animals rights group Friends of Animals, based in Darien, Conn.
“They vindicated the place and dropped all the charges and we arranged a settlement,” Feral said Monday, adding her advocacy group has a “spotless record” for animal care for over 50 years.
Friends of Animals is merging with Primarily Primates, taking over administrative duties and restructuring its management.
The Texas attorney general’s investigation grew out of a complaint about the care of some retired research chimpanzees transferred from Ohio State University last year. Animal rights activists were concerned that an older chimp named Kermit might have suffocated while sedated during transfer, but a necropsy showed he died of a heart attack associated with pre-existing heart disease.
Last year, a court dismissed a lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals charging conditions were substandard at the Texas sanctuary.