Organizations working to preserve the dignity and life of animals can be found throughout the world. The American Society for the Preservation of Animals is a formidable opponent against animal cruelty and has been in existence for 152 years. Along with other organizations such as PETA and the Humane Society, we read about their efforts and successes on the many avenues of social media. Still, there are many not in the spotlight, yet are no less worthy of recognition and praise for their work.
For Amy Kerwin, of Madison Wisconsin, it began in 2004. While working in a local laboratory with 97 Rhesus monkeys, she began to envision a life for them beyond the laboratory, in the safe haven of a sanctuary. Connecting with other labs and researchers, she found many people who also wanted to retire these animals and give them a better quality of life. The American public is led to believe nonhuman species living in research laboratories are not in any physical or mental harm. The reality of this is quite different. In 2016, the Annual Report of Animal Usage showed 1,272 nonhuman primates were used in research involving pain with no drugs administered while 27,172 were used in painful experiments with drugs administered, 42,744 were involved in studies involving no pain and no drugs, while 38,633 were held in research facilities, but not used in any research. It total, there are approximately 111,000 monkeys living in research laboratories nationwide. The minimum guidelines for housing a rhesus monkey are 4.3 sq. feet x 30 inches high. With the growing rate of primate retirement, the need for a sanctuary became Amy’s mission. Kerwin says “the very least we can do is retire the monkeys whenever possible into enriching sanctuaries.”
Laboratory funding may only provide 1-2 years of care for monkeys which can live up to 35-40 years. The Chimp Act was signed into law by President Clinton on December 20, 2000, “to provide for the lifetime care of chimpanzees that have been used or were bred or purchased for use in research conducted or supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration or other agencies of the Federal Government”, according to the Act. Unfortunately, monkeys do not fall under this protection.
Over the next 15 years, Amy Kerwin, along with many supporters, came together to actively fundraise for a sanctuary. In September 2018, the long-awaited Primates Inc. monkey sanctuary will have its grand opening.
Already at the sanctuary are: Izzle, River, Mars, Batman, and Timon – all are Old World Rhesus Macaques. They are retirees and are fortunate to be spending their time roaming free, playing with toys and eating a variety of fruits, including mangos and berries. Their personalities are as distinct as their names and sanctuary life for them is sheer heaven.
Laboratory testing of animals has had protesters up in arms for decades, standing their ground outside labs throughout the country. There will always be a need to educate the public on the unethical treatment of all animals. Amy Kerwin’s continuing efforts to see more monkeys retired from the laboratory to sanctuary life will be her legacy for future generations.
Written by Judy Paolercio
Edited by Bob Stone