The Great Ape Protection Act: A Misnomer?
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2011
David S. Miller1, DVM, PhD, DACZM; Donna Ialeggio2, VMD
1Miller Veterinary Services, Loveland, CO, USA; 2The Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA, USA


The “Great Ape Protection Act” (GAPA) is proposed federal legislation that has been introduced annually from 2007–2010. The authors of this abstract believe that the Act’s provisions are unlikely to improve primate welfare, and may, in fact, negatively impact the welfare of the species it purports to protect. The Act prohibits testing of any drugs and many medical procedures considered to be routine. Thus, veterinary protocols for contraception, cardiovascular research, and other strategies for promoting animal health and welfare may be hindered. Provisions restricting contraception contradict the legislation’s (mandated) breeding moratorium. This moratorium effectively eliminates a large and largely untapped gene pool that could contribute materially to ex situ conservation efforts if planned breeding is permitted. A mandate for group housing fails to accommodate the needs of individual animals with varying social skills, as well as of those typically solitary in the wild (orangutans, Pongo spp.)The legislation initially targeted the welfare of “retired” laboratory chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). However, by including all great apes the focus of the bill was altered, potentially targeting all captive ape facilities. The bill stipulates $10,000 fines for violations of its provisions. This could materially limit veterinary intervention in instances where standard veterinary care may be considered inconsistent with the Act’s provisions as written. Of greater concern, the Act lacks provisions for professional standards of care. In addition, sources for funding of mandated programs are absent from the bill. Thus, there is real potential for animal welfare to be compromised rather than enhanced by this legislation.


Speaker Information
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David S. Miller, DVM, PhD, DACZM
Miller Veterinary Services
Loveland, CO, USA

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