Tips and information to assist with the retirement of monkeys from research settings to private sanctuaries


In the spring of 2014, some members of ASP began an informal discussion over email about the need for information about retiring laboratory monkeys to sanctuary settings at the end of their research careers. In September 2014, the Board of Directors of the American Society of Primatologists established an ad hoc committee (Doree Fragaszy and Chuck Snowdon) to collate information that could provide guidance to the membership about this topic. In June 2015, Steve Ross organized a symposium at the ASP conference to acquaint members of ASP with the developments in the sanctuary community1,2. This symposium generated a good deal of audience interest and requests for information. This document is the result of those discussions and the aim of this document is to provide some useful guidelines and examples of previously successful transfers of monkeys from university research institutions to sanctuaries. Of course, each individual case in question will be unique.

Key points to keep in mind

  1. The institution’s interests are
    • to retire monkeys to an accredited sanctuary that meets appropriate standards of care and financial sustainability
    • to work with a sanctuary that will present a positive message for the institution’s public relations about the motivations for, and process of, the transfer.
  2. The sanctuary’s interests are
    • to retire monkeys in an orderly manner, with as much information as possible concerning their health history, behavior and social status
    • to secure adequate funding for lifetime care for the monkeys coming to the sanctuary. Most sanctuaries are private, non-profit entities that rely substantially on charitable donations for their funding, so they must meet the needs of their donors as well as the animals in their care.
  3. Many factors and a large number of people are likely to be involved in such a transfer so communication is key. From the home institution to the sanctuary, this may include research staff, veterinary and animal care staff, administrators, public relations and communications staff, development staff, as well as federal regulators. The transfer of monkeys from their home institution will require working with multiple interested parties, often simultaneously. Furthermore, some decisions (e.g., funding sources, ownership) may be non-negotiable, while other aspects may require flexibility and creative thinking.

Useful Resources: If all goes well, the sanctuary and the research institution can work together effectively for a smooth transfer. Both Chuck Snowdon ( and Doree Fragaszy ( have done this, and you may contact either of them to discuss the process.

Helpful tips for the transfer process

In the United States, it is important that the sanctuary you select is licensed by USDA3 and is accredited by an organization, such as the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) that provides standard of care guidelines for Old World monkeys4, New World monkeys5, and prosimians6.

The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance7 (NAPSA) may be able to assist in finding an appropriate sanctuary. NAPSA members are nonprofit organizations that provide lifetime care for their charges. Basic requirements for NAPSA membership include:

  1. The sanctuary is licensed by the USDA and the relevant state, and accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS)
  2. No breeding of animals
  3. No commerce (buying/selling/entertainment)
  4. No public/unguided exhibition
  5. No physical contact with the public
  6. Any research must benefit residents
  7. No removal of residents for events or fundraising

Determine that the public relations message that the sanctuary presents in its fund-raising and other public-facing materials is one of caring and collaboration with research institutions, not “rescue.” Most sanctuaries have, for most of their history, taken in pets and confiscated/abandoned animals, not animals from retired from research institutions. Note that the sanctuary may have limited experience working with a research institution or may present different messages to donors than to researchers and their institutions.

Once you have identified a sanctuary with which you would like to work to retire the monkeys in your care, approach the appropriate administrator(s) and veterinarians at your institution, potentially including your IACUC chair, and USDA regulators8. Explain what you would like to do and mention the potential financial and/or in-kind contributions the university could/should make. Point out the positive value of the retirement for the institution, both financially (if the institution was facing caring for the animals directly) and in terms of public relations. Discuss your estimated timeline for the transfer. It may be helpful to point out long-term overhead that the institution has received from the PI’s research funding.

Contact the director of the sanctuary to ask if there may be space for the monkeys you seek to retire, and, if so, work with them to create an estimated budget and a timeline for the monkeys’ transfer and long term care. Ask what financial support will be needed from your institution and ask to learn about the sanctuary’s strategies for long-term financial sustainability9. Potential sources of funds to be considered include University funds, public funds, and private donations. We, researchers, have benefitted from working with our animals over our careers and it is important that we make some contribution to their retirement. One’s willingness to make a personal contribution may help convince a reluctant administrator and enhance personal relations with the sanctuary.

At this stage you should also investigate the adequacy of the animal care program provided by the sanctuary, ideally by visiting the sanctuary in-person and meeting with the care staff and veterinary staff directly10. This evaluation should be run in collaboration with the personnel who provide the husbandry and veterinary care to the monkeys in their home institution.

Work with the sanctuary director to create a communications plan through which you agree upon shared messaging about the transfer. Topics to consider include the monkeys’ research history; the reason for their transfer from your institution to the sanctuary; and the relationship between the home institution and the sanctuary.

Prior to the transfer of the monkeys between institutions, future ownership must be agreed upon by all parties. Considerations also include future ownership of biomaterials associated with the monkeys post transfer.

1Two people who presented at the June 2015 Symposium at ASP on Sanctuaries have posted their presentations on YouTube:

2Dorothy Fragaszy, Christopher King and Leanne Alworth (2015): What enables a university to work effectively with a private sanctuary to retire nonhuman primates.
3Individuals and businesses who exhibit animals to the public for compensation (including donations) are required to obtain a license from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Some businesses are required to be licensed regardless of whether or not they receive compensation. APHIS’ Animal Care program ensures that exhibitors comply with the Animal Welfare Act’s standards and regulations through licensing requirements, education, and unannounced inspections.
7; the current director is Erika Fleury, her email address is
8 For example, at the University of Georgia, D. Fragaszy worked with the Clinical Veterinarian responsible for the monkey colony and the Director of Animal Care and Use for the University, and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, C. Snowdon worked directly with the chief veterinarian who is Director of the Research Animals Resources Center.
9In cases that we know about, the research institution did not provide full financial support for the retirement, but did provide partial support. The exact amount of support needed for the retirement to happen depends on factors that the researcher cannot know; the sanctuary director will have to provide that information. Ask what in-kind donations could be useful (such as caging; sanctuaries have to have back-up housing in case of weather emergencies, for example).
10Questions you should consider asking include: Does the sanctuary have permanent and paid animal care staff? How is veterinary care provided? What diet is provided? What type of enclosures will be available for housing? What kind of enrichment program do they maintain?