Inspection Finds Problems at HSUS-Controlled Sanctuary

How hard is it for the Humane Society of the United States to ensure chimps are treated well at a sanctuary it controls?

Since the spring, we’ve followed the saga of allegations of chimp mistreatment at Project Chimps, a Georgia facility that houses chimpanzees. Two former employees went public with claims against the facility, providing documentation at Project Chimps responded by suing them, but backed off in the summer after some unflattering press.

Now, the animal rights website Their Turn reports that renowned primatologist Dr. Steven Ross has issued a report of his findings. And it’s not good.

Dr. Ross gives a 67% score (equivalent to a “D” grade) to Project Chimps for its programs, i.e., how it is managing the chimps’ welfare, noting “[t]here is relatively little veterinary experience” and “veterinary resources are moderate.” (It’s not the first “D” grade in HSUS’s history.) Dr. Ross gives higher marks for the chimps’ social life and their physical facilities.

The corporate flaks at HSUS were quick to spin the report. HSUS put out a statement claiming the report “confirms that allegations of abuse…are profoundly off the mark.” Profoundly? When the facility got the equivalent of a “D”?

HSUS also tried to spin the negative aspects by characterizing it as “the assessment noted some specific areas to focus on.” Yes, just some things to focus on–nothing to see here! (You can be sure that if some research facility got a score like that, HSUS would have a more critical take.)

To boot, HSUS published a copy of the expert report–but reduced its size to make it hard to read, and included comments from HSUS (in larger font) throughout the report.

The HSUS/Project Chimps response to this situation reeks of corporate downplaying and jockeying to avoid responsibility. Allegations? Deny them and attack the whistleblowers. Can’t deny them? Spin it and downplay it.

It’s reminiscent of the recent sexual harassment scandal at HSUS that forced out CEO Wayne Pacelle. This holiday, give your money somewhere else if you want to help animals.