COLUMBUS, Ohio - Seven chimps formerly used in research at Ohio State University could be returned to a troubled primate sanctuary, nearly six months after being removed from the Ohio preserve amid allegations of mistreatment.
A probate judge last week returned control of Primarily Primates Inc. to its restructured board of directors, provided its founder and former executive director, Wallace Swett Jr., cuts ties with the company.
Nine chimps and three monkeys, used for cognitive research at OSU, came to the sanctuary in March 2006, in a more than $300,000 contract to care for the animals.
One of the monkeys escaped the day it arrived at the 75-acre facility in San Antonio, and two chimps died within months of moving in. Concerns arose quickly about conditions at Primarily Primates, and the chimps' former caretakers sued the sanctuary alleging mistreatment and mismanagement.
A judge eventually decided that a court-appointed caretaker should oversee the facility while the legal matters were sorted out, and placed Lee Theisen-Watt in charge.
Theisen-Watt decided the park was overcrowded and in terrible condition, a claim Primarily Primates disputed, and shipped the chimps to a sanctuary in Louisiana.
The agreement between Primarily Primates and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott puts the park back under the control of the company's board, ending Theisen-Watt's oversight.
"The condition of the facility has been greatly improved and overcrowding has been alleviated," said Abbott's spokesman, Tom Kelley. The agreement requires Primarily Primates to build adequate enclosures for the chimps by October and submit to inspections over the next two years.
Critics note that the settlement reinstates two members who served on the board last year, including Priscilla Feral, who said she expected former board member Stephen Tello to be named temporary executive director.