February 17, 2000
Honorable Dennis J. Kucinich
U.S. House Of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Re: The Coulston Foundation Chimp Divestiture
Not Soon Enough
Dear Representative Kucinich:
Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful response to my letter regarding the CHIMP Act (H.R. 3514). I was glad to learn you are aware of the current USDA agreement with The Coulston Foundation and their future divestiture of chimpanzees due to AWA violations. What you may not be aware of is the fact that conditions at The Coulston Foundation (TCF) since that agreement was reached have gotten worse not better; as such, January 2002 and 300 animals is simply too little, too late.
One of the violations charged to TCF by the USDA, which resulted in the divestiture agreement, was an insufficiently sized veterinary staff for the number of chimpanzees at the facility. Since that initial citation, TCF has lost, not gained, staff members. In the last few months of 1999, six chimpanzees died while under the care of TCF. The USDA-APHIS has launched an investigation into the deaths.
Donna, one of the chimpanzees, died following a poorly managed pregnancy when attending staff (I use the term loosely) failed to determine early on that the fetus she was carrying had died (at 183 days gestation). Following its death, the chimp fetus remained in Donna's womb for at least another two weeks and possibly as long as two months before her condition came to the attention of TCF's staff members. Finally, the last week of October, vets found no fetal heartbeat and an ultrasound a week later confirmed the baby child was dead. (Why did they wait a week?) Then, vets waited another full week before attempting to remove the dead chimp via a C-section.
Because the fetus was decomposing inside her, Donna developed peritoneous, the wall of her uterus ruptured and sections of her large intestines suffered tissue death as a result. During the C-section, when Donna's condition was fully realized, participating veterinarians recommended euthanasia. But sadly even that last attempt at compassion was not acted upon soon enough by vets and Donna died the next day after being allowed to wake up from the surgery. Incidentally, Donna was 36 years old and had mothered 14 chimps (who were used for experimentation and research). This infant would have been her 15th. Noted chimpanzee expert Roger Fouts, on his website, indicates that chimpanzees generally stop breeding (in nature) between the ages of 11 and 13.
Being a compassionate human being, I am sure your heart breaks now as mine did when I first read this news story. The difference is that you are in a position to do something about it--to demand accountability and pursue the shutdown TCF's research and breeding facility and complete divestiture of their chimpanzee colony.
Rep. Kucinich, it is clear to me that TCF cannot overcome whatever circumstances have caused their low staff retention and poor care conditions. How many more of these noble creatures will suffer and die before the decision is reached that TCF does not have the ways or means to manage these animals properly? Perhaps there is not a lot you can do legislatively, but I urge you--no, I beg you--to investigate this issue and be vocal about the findings. Please give a voice to these voiceless creatures who have so long involuntarily served man and suffered for it.
Again, I thank you for your time and the opportunity to address this issue.