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Court Won’t Take Chimp Lawsuit

April 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today steered clear of a lawsuit that accuses the federal government of letting zoos and research facilities keep chimpanzees and other primates in inhumane conditions.

The court, without comment, turned away a medical research group’s argument that the New York man who filed the lawsuit lacks the proper legal standing.

The federal Animal Welfare Act requires the Agriculture Department to set minimum standards for ensuring that zoos, research facilities and animal dealers house primates in ways that promote their psychological well-being.

Marc Jurnove of Plain View, N.Y., sued the government in 1996, saying it unlawfully let zoos and research facilities set their own standards. The Agriculture Department has determined that primates need to be housed in groups, but its rules allow facilities to house them alone, Jurnove said.

He based his claim of legal standing on the fact that he visited the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville, N.Y., and found a chimpanzee and a Japanese snow macaque each housed alone, and squirrel monkeys housed next to bears that frightened them.

His lawsuit said seeing the animals in those conditions caused him ``extreme aesthetic harm and emotional and physical distress.″

After a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled for Jurnove, the National Association for Biomedical Research joined the case as a defendant so it could file an appeal.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Jurnove lacked standing to sue, but the full appeals court reversed that decision and reinstated his lawsuit.

In the appeal acted on today, the research group’s lawyers said people cannot sue over their ``emotional response″ to the way animals are housed unless the conditions might reduce the number of animals for future viewing.

Government lawyers agreed that the appeals court erred, but added the appeal was premature because there had been no ruling on the merits of Jurnove’s lawsuit.

The case is National Association for Biomedical Research vs. Animal Legal Defense Fund, 98-1059.

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