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Disappointing change in KY legislation proposed

Erika Fleury January 17, 2014 Comments (4)

Kentucky Sen. John Schickel yesterday filed legislation - the effect of which would be to specifically allow monkeys as "service animals" in Kentucky.

Their importation into and possession in Kentucky is currently disallowed under 301KAR2:082.

Our organization, the Primate Rescue Center, is home to over 50 unwanted monkeys and apes, including cast-offs from such "helper" training programs.

Norman is a rescued capuchin living at the PRC. Capuchin monkeys are the primate species most commonly used as "service animals".

We - along with the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) - oppose the practice of utilizing monkeys as "assistance animals" for any reason.

From the routine practice of "full dental extraction" (employed to prevent injury to the human handler!), the inherent human safety risks, the potential for zoonotic disease transmission, not to mention "sanitary" concerns - there are a host of reasons why this is a really bad idea.

In addition, in 2010, the Federal government narrowed the definition of "service animal" to dogs and horses (only), meaning non-human primates cannot be recognized as service animals under the ADA.

The PRC and our colleagues are shocked that this change is being sought.

“Personhood Beyond the Human” Conference

Erika Fleury December 11, 2013 Comments (0)

This week I was lucky enough to be able to attend "Personhood Beyond the Human", a conference at Yale University sponsored by The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, endorsed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) and funded by Terasem Movement Foundation and of course, Arcus Foundation (who finance many primate-related organizations and projects, including the LEMSIP chimpanzees' move to Primate Rescue Center).

Although this conference was not specifically about primates, primates were often the topic of discussion (along with elephants and orcas). Over three days, the various speakers gave presentations on all aspects of legal personhood, how to recognize a being as a person, and why or if humans should recognize other beings as persons.

Keeping in mind that just this week, the NhRP filed the first cases on behalf of the legal personhood of a chimpanzee, the timing of this conference was pretty incredible.

Even more incredible were some of the speakers...

Peter Singer - the very man who penned the seminal books Animal Liberation and The Great Ape Project - opened the conference on Friday night. About five years ago, I took a train to Manhattan to hear him speak, but my second time seeing him live was no less exciting. Perhaps "exciting" is not the right word for a bunch of people sitting in an auditorium on a rainy Friday night, but regardless, I always find myself rather exhilarated to be in the presence of (what I consider to be) greatness and true inspiration.

Singer discussed speciesism, or the tendency to have a bias against other species simply in order to give preferential treatment to the group to which one personally belongs.  Giving equal consideration to similar interests - across species - requires humans to empathize and consider what it's like to be a being of another species, especially when it comes to their possible desires to experience pleasure and avoid pain.

There is a strong case to consider rationality (or the awareness of one's own existence over time) to be the basis of legal personhood. It would then follow that some animals (such as chimpanzees) would be considered legal persons, despite the fact that many humans (such as young children and the mentally disabled) who are not considered rational have already been enjoying these rights.

It was clear that Singer could have spoken for hours longer, even just to answer all the questions from the audience. It was well worth the down-pour that drenched us all as we left the auditorium that night!

On Saturday, I was looking forward to hearing from Steven Wise, director of the NhRP and the lawyer who spent the last 27 years of his life building up for this past week's legal filing. I was lucky enough to speak with him in person earlier that day. He is a kind, pleasant man with a wonderful sense of a humor and enviable perserverence. I have no doubt that chimpanzees deserve more legal rights, and I have even less doubt that Steven Wise can prove this in a court of law.

Wise brought with him what appeared to be a ream of paper, but it was actually the testimonials of the primatologists and experts related to his trials. He explained that the NhRP is asking the judges of their cases to focus on the importance of autonomy of the four captive chimps living within New York state. Relying on petitions for common law writ of habeas corpus, they are referencing the slave trials of America's past, in which the captors must present the captive being and legally and sufficiently explain why keeping him or her jailed is justified.

Common law equality means that you can't treat the same things differently for an arbitrary reason, Mr. Wise stated. Discrimination based on being a chimpanzee is arbitrary and such treatment is akin to racism, or sexism, or any other -ism in which one population strips equality from another population based on one characteristic.

The recent climate of the United States animal rights field, combined with key events like the National Institutes of Health's recent halt to funding of chimpanzee research, made it the perfect time for NhRP to file their first cases this week, and this weekend's conference was more than opportune.

Personhood Beyond the Human was an encapsulation of the times. We are living on the brink of change for our closest relatives, and was quite fascinating to hear first-hand from the mouths of those who lead the way.


Laura Clifford November 23, 2013 Comments (0)

It’s my favorite time of year...Tucked away between Halloween and Christmas sits a holiday that department stores everywhere seem to have forgotten about. You don’t have to buy anything for anyone, and you aren’t expecting anything in return (I think that’s why it’s my favorite holiday). I’m talking about Thanksgiving! A holiday where you are meant to sit back, take a long look around you, and be grateful for everything good in your life.

I am extremely grateful to be able to count my job as one of those things. I am thankful that each of the animals here will be well taken care of for the rest of their lives, and that I get to be a part of that. Some of them came from pretty rough situations. When I think about the lives some of our residents had before coming here, it is heartbreaking - and quite frankly, infuriating. But I am thankful that they are now in a place where they will truly receive the best care possible for the rest of their lives. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to get to do what I do everyday, and I know the other care staff members feel exactly the same. It is a privilege to serve these animals, and that is definitely not lost on us. This job can be hard (and messy), but it is so gratifying.

Of course, as thankful as I am to have this job, I wish it didn’t even exist. I wish that there were not a need for facilities like ours. In a prefect world, our residents would all be in the wild where they belong. Since that is not the case, I will choose to be thankful for what we have, and continue to work to improve the lives of every monkey and chimpanzee in our care.

I also want to say thank you to our donors. Without you, none of this would be possible. I would be out of a job, and I don’t even want to think about where our residents would be. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for all that you do for the Primate Rescue Center. Whether it’s monetary donations, donating supplies, or donating your time every week, we are forever grateful. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and in the midst of turkey eating and Black Friday shopping, don’t forget to take a minute to sit back and think about all that you are thankful for.  :)

Extreme Makeover: Playroom

Melanie Parker November 14, 2013 Comments (2)

Recently, our chimpanzee "playroom" received an extreme makeover! New windows were installed, ceiling tiles were replaced, and an amazing mural was painted by two talented volunteers. Veteran Volunteer Retta Ritchie-Holbrook and her friend Shannon Johnson took a vision we had and made it more amazing than we could have ever imagined. We would also like to thank Sherwin-Williams in Nicholasville for their generosity and support of this project.  

You can visit  our Facebook page at to see video of the chimp's reaction to their new mural.


Retta Ritchie-Holbrook (left) and Shannon Johnson (right) next to the 3D tree in the chimp's playroom.

What’s up with the Peafowl?

Brandi Hunt November 01, 2013 Comments (1)

It’s simple: Peafowl, commonly known as Peacocks (male) and Peahens (female) play an essential role at the PRC. We currently have about 12 peafowl on the PRC grounds. They help us with our general clean up around the monkey enclosures by eating the discarded food items that the monkeys drop to the ground. This keeps the carestaff from having to worry about other little critters, like rodents, populating the grounds in search for the leftover food. Most of our monkey enclosures sit up off the ground so, when food falls through, the peacocks are right here to clean up the mess. Our peafowl are very popular during our annual member event as well where they display their beautiful feathers.  Who wouldn't want to have them around?                                     

Beyond Bananas: What do Primates Really Eat?

Laura Clifford October 12, 2013 Comments (6)

Monkeys and bananas, they go together like…well, monkeys and bananas! While most of our monkeys and chimps do like bananas, their diets consist of much, much more.

Our residents eat A LOT of food everyday, so we make it a top priority to make sure we are feeding everyone a nutritious diet to ensure a long, happy life. Our days here at the Primate Rescue Center begin and end with feeding. Every morning the chimps start the day with a fresh piece of fruit. It can be an apple, a pear, or even, yes…a banana, while the monkeys start their day off with some lettuce and seeds. After that, our staff and volunteers begin chopping a mixture of fruits and veggies to feed to the chimps and monkeys. Later, the chimps get lunch which our staff and volunteers prepare from our PRC cookbook. All of our recipes take in to account the total carbohydrate, fat, and sugar levels in order to maintain a healthy level of each. Non- human primates can suffer from diabetes and other weight related heath issues, so it is imperative that we feed them a healthy, balanced diet to prevent these diseases. The monkeys also have a dinner prepared from the cookbook along with another serving of lettuce mixed with nuts or seeds. The chimps end their day with another mixture of chopped fruits and veggies. We also supplement their diets with monkey and chimp chow.

Needless to say, we are so grateful to our area Kroger stores who graciously donate food on a daily basis. Every afternoon our staff and volunteers spend time unloading and sorting through the produce donated by Kroger. We keep a variety of fruits and veggies, as well as nuts and other dry goods that we can use in recipes or in monkey and chimp “chop” each day. We also use monetary donations to buy groceries to feed all of the monkeys and chimps. If you would like to contribute to the care of a specific resident in our care, check out our Primate Pals program where you can “adopt” one of our monkeys or chimps and provide food for them through your generous donations.

It’s a big job to feed all of these animals, and it takes up a lot of time to prepare meals each day, but we love doing it because we love our residents!


Clean Bill of Health for our Chimpanzees

Eileen Dunnington October 02, 2013 Comments (1)

A couple weekends ago, all eleven of our chimpanzees received thorough physical examinations. Our veterinarian Dr. Dan Bowling was joined by Save the Chimps veterinarian Dr. Jocelyn Bezner to perform the check-ups. Also assisting was Dr. Woodrow Friend of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital who provided his expertise and digital radiograph equipment. We were able to examine all eleven chimps in three days. We were very fortunate that Dr. Bezner shared her anesthesia administration technique where we were able to hide a small needle in a glove, so staff could quickly stick each chimp (which only felt like a bee sting). This prevented us from having to dart any of the chimps and made for a mostly stress-free experience for the entire group.

A chimpanzee physical is not so different from an annual exam for a human. We evaluate their overall health, collect blood and urine samples, look at their teeth and gums, examine their ears, listen to their hearts, etc. The males in the group get x-rays of their hearts, since male chimps in captivity are prone to heart disease. After a few minor health issues were addressed (some teeth did have to be pulled), the veterinarians gave the chimps a clean bill of health.

We are so grateful to Dr. Bezner from Save the Chimps for taking the time to assist our Dr. Bowling. We all learned so much and look forward to working with her in the future. We are also so thankful that Dr. Friend was able to provide services that were crucial in assessing the health of our chimpanzee group. He even assisted with Donald’s tooth removal, which turned out to be quite an endeavor. 

We take great pride in providing the highest quality care for our residents, which certainly includes their medical needs as well. These check-ups are essential in our evaluation of our residents’ overall health and lifetime care. We are also so thankful to all the volunteers who helped us during these three days so that the staff could focus on moving chimps, prepping knock down and wake up areas, assisting with medical procedures, and monitoring the chimps as they woke up from anesthesia.

As you can imagine, the cost of performing these physicals does add up quickly. The anesthesia medications, emergency medications to have on hand, and other medical supplies are certainly not inexpensive. While we were fortunate to have had many supplies donated, our budget is strained. If you would like to donate to help us recoup some of these costs, please consider earmarking a donation for medical care.

Executive Director April Truitt and the PRC Carestaff with Dr. Dan Bowling (left) & Dr. Jocelyn Bezner (center)

Dr. Dan Bowling, Dr. Jocelyn Bezner, and Dr. Woodrow Friend

Check out the full story in the Jessamine Journal.

Chimpanzee Art Contest Winners Announced

Jenny Compton September 12, 2013 Comments (1)

The Humane Society of the United States announces the winners of their Chimpanzee Art Contest

Read more.

Have You Voted for Jenny Chimpanzee’s masterpiece?

Jenny Compton August 19, 2013 Comments (1)

We need your vote now to help us win a grant from the Humane Society of the United States!

Read more.

Support the status change of captive chimps to “endangered”!

Melanie Parker July 17, 2013 Comments (1)

Let U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service know you support the status change of captive chimpanzees to "endangered"! 

The USFWS will be accepting public comments until August 12 on a proposal to upgrade the status of captive chimpanzees from "threatened" to "endangered". Now is the time to close this "split listing" loophole which for decades has enabled biomedical research, chimpanzees as "pets", and commercial exploitation in advertising and circuses. We need your help!

Please join us and Dr. Jane Goodall in supporting this significant proposal. Comments may be mailed or sent electronically to the USFWS until August 12, 2013.

Follow this link to submit electronically: Make your voice heard!
This link is to the official government page. Submit your comment by clicking on the ''Comment Now!'' box in the top right hand corner.

By hard copy:
Submit by U.S. mail or hand-deliver to:
Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2010-0086
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive
MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

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