Court Dismisses Chimpanzee “Personhood” Case

Today, Thursday, December 4, a New York appeals court unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking legal personhood for a chimpanzee.  This appeal was in response to an earlier dismissal by a court in Fulton County that denied a request by the Nonhuman Rights Project for a writ of habeas corpus last December.

The Supreme Court of the New York Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department specifically pointed to the definition of “person” in Black’s Law Dictionary which defines a person as, "[a] human being" or, as relevant here, "[a]n entity (such as a corporation) that is recognized by law as having the rights and duties [of] a human being."

In affirming the dismissal, the court stated, “Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights – such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus – that have been afforded to human beings.”

To support its ruling, the court also cited two law review articles authored by Pepperdine Law Professor Richard L. Cupp Jr., who presented at a NABR Webinar “Understanding Animal Legal Personhood Issues” in April.  The law review articles argued that rather than creating new rights for animals, society and its laws should place greater focus on humans’ moral responsibility for our treatment of animals.

In a separate case filed by the same organization, judges in a Rochester, NY appeals court on Tuesday heard arguments that a privately owned chimpanzee in Niagara Falls should be considered a legal person with a right to “not be owned or imprisoned.”  A decision is not expected in this case until early 2015.

To read today’s full decision, please click here, and continue to visit NABR.org for updates on animal law and animal “personhood” news.

Second Chimpanzee “Personhood” Appeal Heard in New York

Judges at an appeals court in Rochester, New York, heard arguments on Tuesday, December 2 that a chimpanzee owned by a couple in Niagara Falls should be considered a legal person with a right to “not be owned or imprisoned.” The lawsuit was filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), an animal rights group that hopes to set a landmark legal precedent: rights for an animal other than Homo sapiens.

Legal experts say their chances are slim, but the argument is being heard. An online report of the hearing with some questions asked by the panel of judges was published this morning in Wired.com.

A decision is not expected in this appeal until early next year; a decision on the first appeal filed in Albany, NY, on behalf of another chimpanzee may come in the next few weeks.

President Visits NIH to Underscore Need for Funds to Fight Ebola

President Obama visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus on Tuesday, December 2, using the opportunity to congratulate researchers on their recent work with a promising Ebola vaccine.

As reported by UPI, after a tour of the facilities, the president offered words of encouragement and thanks to NIH officials, while also calling on Congress to approve his Administration’s request for $6.2 billion in emergency funding to continue the fight against Ebola at home and abroad. Mr. Obama told NIH employees "The fight is not even close to being over," USA Today reports, later adding: "We cannot beat Ebola without more funding."

A full report with picture can be found at the NIH Director’s Blog.

Louisiana’s Runoff Election is on Saturday, December 6

If you live in Louisiana, don’t forget that Saturday, December 6 is runoff election day in your area.  Early voting is already underway so please be sure to vote early or plan to vote on Saturday.

The December 6 election features two U.S. House races, a number of local races, but most notably, the race between Congressman Bill Cassidy (R) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D) for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

For more information about voting in Louisiana, please visit the Secretary of State’s website by clicking here.

New York Governor Signs Open Records Fix to Protect Researchers

NABR is pleased to report that on Friday, November 21, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed Assembly Bill 8109/Senate Bill 5731 into law.

A8109/S5731, now codified into law, will exempt from the state’s open records laws any records pertaining to biomedical research or teaching at universities in New York that, if disclosed, could endanger the life or safety of any person or threaten the security of a biomedical research lab.  This is a common sense solution that will protect researchers and their families in the State of New York from animal rights extremists who use open records laws to gain information as a means to target and harass those involved in biomedical research with animal models.  New York becomes the twentieth state to enact such public safety protection for researchers.  Earlier this year, the State of Florida enacted similar legislation.

NABR, along with the rest of the biomedical research community, thanks Governor Cuomo, Assembly member Steve Englebright, and State Senator John Flanagan for their leadership on the bill.

As a reminder, don’t forget to check out NABR’s latest resource, “FOIA in Your State” to learn more about open records laws in your state.  This publication summarizes and analyzes the open records laws of every state and the District of Columbia as they relate to biomedical research records and is an excellent tool for you, your legal team, and government affairs staff when considering whether changes to these laws are needed.

2015 State Legislative Sessions Rapidly Approaching

With the continual logjam at the federal-level on Capitol Hill, states have become the battlegrounds for legislative progress and very soon state legislatures across the country will adjourn to begin their state’s legislative session.  Some states have even already begun to pre-file legislation for the new session.

2014 saw several threats to the endeavor to find cures and therapies through ethical and humane animal research.  For more information on the political make-up of your state legislatures please click here.  For a complete list of 2015 legislative session dates and deadlines, please click here.

NABR will post updates on pertinent state legislative issues as they become available in 2015.  Please continue to visit www.NABR.org for updates.

Retiring Member of Congress Named AAAS CEO

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a physicist, educator, and 8-term Democratic member of Congress, has been named the new CEO of AAAS. He will succeed Alan Leshner, a neuroscientist who is stepping down this winter after leading AAAS since 2001. The American Association for the Advancement of Science publishes Science, ScienceInsider and other journals.

Holt, 66, has represented a New Jersey district since 1999, but in February 2014 announced he would not seek another term. Although not known for sponsoring legislation, Holt has earned kudos from both Republican and Democrat colleagues for being an effective, behind-the-scenes advocate for additional funding for research and science education. He was part of an unofficial, bipartisan “physics caucus” in Congress that, at its peak, totaled three members who held physics PhDs. More details are provided in this ScienceInsider report.

NABR Presents Inaugural Ranking of State Open Records Laws

NABR is pleased to announce its inaugural ranking of state open records laws. This publication summarizes and analyzes the open records laws of every state and the District of Columbia as they relate to biomedical research records. Using several key criteria, each state’s law is assigned a score of up to five stars to highlight those states with open records laws most protective of biomedical research records, as well as the states with the most room for improvement.

All those involved with the care and use of animals in biomedical research should care about their state’s open records law. Animal rights activists have increasingly turned to both the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state open records laws to acquire information about biomedical research and the personal information of researchers working with animals. Such information has been used to request baseless investigations, seek criminal charges for alleged animal cruelty and ask for enforcement actions to be taken for alleged issues involving noncompliance. It has also been used to inaccurately label researchers as “animal abusers” and target individuals and families at their homes. It is often posted online to encourage harassment. While many states’ laws include exemptions intended to protect proprietary information, these exemptions have often proven insufficient to protect animal care and use program and research data, photographs and the personal information of faculty and staff.

Researchers as well as administrators at both public universities and private companies should be aware of the state open records laws in each jurisdiction, as any communications, data, photographs or other information sent to or obtained by an employee of a public university is potentially subject to disclosure. This understanding is critical in the case of public-private partnerships or joint research ventures where some information is collected by or transmitted to a researcher at a public university.

In addition to analyzing whether institutional records and personal information are exempt from disclosure, these rankings also consider what costs a research institution may recover if it is required to spend valuable staff time researching and disclosing information. Many broad and vaguely worded open records requests, such as “all information related to research with nonhuman primates,” result in significant response costs associated with compiling the records,  legal review by  the institution’s legal counsel  of each page to determine what information is protected from disclosure, as well as copying and mailing expenses. An open records law that fails to permit an institution to recoup the full costs associated with responding, for example by only permitting photocopying costs to be charged, may encourage more broadly worded requests in the future.

In recent years, a number of states have recognized the crucial importance of protecting both research records and the personal information of researchers by amending their state’s open records laws to exempt this sensitive information from disclosure. The need for these changes has often been highlighted by examples of sensitive information being disclosed to and misused by animal rights activists and extremists. Proactive changes to the state’s open records law may have prevented many of these unfortunate circumstances from occurring.

The primary purpose of these rankings is two-fold: (1) to make those involved with the care and use of animals in biomedical research aware of the open records laws in their state and assist in evaluating each law’s effectiveness in protecting research documents; and (2) to encourage research institutions in states with room for improvement to proactively seek exemptions in their open records laws before information is released that may lead to targeting by animal rights organizations.

NABR also encourages researchers and administrators to download our Best Practices Guide, Responding to FOIA Requests: Facts and Resources, at NABR.org. This document includes information about the federal FOIA as well as several best practices and resources applicable to state open records requests.

To view NABR’s rankings of state FOIA laws, please click here.

 

 

Overwhelming Public Support for Use of Monkeys in Ebola Vaccine Research

Zogby Analytics conducted an online survey of 1,009 adults in the US and found that 64.4 percent of American adults support the use of research monkeys for the development of vaccines to protect against the Ebola virus. Slightly more than 71 percent of men and almost 58 percent of women support the use of non-human primates (NHPs) in Ebola vaccine research.

"NHPs are absolutely critical for Ebola vaccine and therapeutic developments as their immune systems and physiology are the closest of all animals to humans," says Dr. Jean L. Patterson, Chair of Virology and Immunology at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. "Due to the unethical use of human experimentation in diseases of these sorts, using animals in the Animal Rule Protocols is the only way to move forward with developing a cure to these deadly pathogens."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, the current Ebola epidemic is the largest in history with more than 8,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and almost 5,000 deaths. The CDC recently released a new predictive model for the spread of the deadly virus which suggests in a worst-case scenario up to 1.4 million people could become infected by the end of January.

"Non-human primates are the most accurate model systems to tell us if candidate vaccines will work," says Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, Professor of Immunology and Microbial Science at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. "New drugs are first screened in test tubes, then in rodents to weed out the ones that don't work as well, but the last, best test before human trials is often non-human primates."

Biomedical researchers continue their quest to develop both injectable and inhalable vaccines to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus from person to person. Manufacturing and production could be ramped up quickly -- especially for a breathable vaccine -- if human clinical trials prove to be safe and effective.

"We have an Ebola epidemic now," says Paul McKellips, executive vice president at the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) who commissioned the Zogby poll. "But if we cave to pockets of public pressure being triggered by animal rights groups, we could be facing a pandemic by January, if CDC models are even close. Many Americans have been led to believe laboratory animals are no longer needed to develop treatments and cures for both people and animals. Despite the claims of those who oppose animal research, Ebola underscores the essential role of animal models, especially monkeys, in the development of medicines to save lives."

Oversight of animal research in the United States is strictly governed by multiple regulatory bodies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the regulations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and federally-sponsored research programs are approved and monitored by the National Institutes of Health.

"The US Food and Drug Administration requires that potential vaccines, drugs and therapies are proven safe and effective in at least two species before moving to human clinical trials," says Matt Bailey, executive vice president at the National Association for Biomedical Research. "Beyond regulations, the majority of institutions conducting animal research in the US voluntarily submit to a rigorous accreditation process performed by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International."

The Zogby Analytics poll was conducted on October 28 and 29, 2014 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

We’re Just Days Away from NABR’s Next Webinar!

Have you registered yet for NABR's next webinar? NABR's next webinar, "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?" is scheduled for Tuesday, November 18 and space is limited.

Animal rights groups have been using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gather information on institutional correspondence on self-reported issues with NIH’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW). These groups also are requesting that USDA re-inspect institutions and issue citations for the items that were self-reported to OLAW.

This must-see presentation will review the current use of information self-reported to OLAW and explain how to best manage the inspection process to deal with the possibility of re-inspections. We will also discuss what steps should to be taken to effectively file an appeal in light of the new USDA appeal process.

Re-inspections and USDA citations have resulted from these requests from animal rights groups and given the finite time limit for filing an appeal, it is best to be ready. Don't miss your opportunity to learn how to prepare for such issues. Join us live from NABR’s DC Headquarters for "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?" on Tuesday, November 18.

Register TODAY for "Should You Update Your Inspection Management Process?"

 

Click here to reserve your spot on November 18, 2014!

Register

 

 

Webinar participants will be provided with a Certificate of Attendance upon request.

*This webinar is a complimentary service for NABR member institutions. An unlimited number of interested participants from each member institution may register free of charge. Interested participants from non-member institutions must be pre-approved and will be charged a per-person access fee of $279. All major credit cards are accepted. You will be contacted for payment upon registration. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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