CLE ELUM, Wash. - Deep in the bucolic landscape of Eastern Washington, hidden among the rolling hills and family farms lies a legacy of suffering rarely seen by human eyes. Seven chimpanzees rescued from government warehouses live out their golden years in peace and happiness at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, a retirement home for chimps who have spend their lives as research labs.
"This life now is remarkably better than what it was before for them," said Diana Goodrich, Chimp Sanctuary NW.
The chimps arrived here two years ago, some after spending years in 24-hour isolation, awaiting their next round of medical experimentation.
"That's really the same as putting a human in solitary confinement," said Goodrich.
They were sickly and scared, and some even showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder.
"It was like they were just shell shocked," said Goodrich.
Now the chimps are thriving, each becoming more independent and playful every day. Jamie likes to wear cowboy boots, Foxy's favorite toy is her troll doll. And Jody, captured in the wild as a baby, is finally learning how to make a nest, something she never had the chance to learn from her mother:
"It's still kind of hard for me to believe they came out on the other side as well as they did," said Goodrich.
But there are hundreds additional chimps just like these who remain locked up in 5-by-7-foot cages - warehoused like unwanted property - simply waiting to die.
"A life sentence is a good way to describe it, and they've never done anything wrong to deserve it," said Goorich.
Now, a proposal before Congress called the Great Ape Protection Act would outlaw biomedical experiments on chimps and release the 600 of them owned by the government to sanctuaries.
But as it stands right now, there isn't nearly enough room to care for all those chimps at the handful of sanctuaries across the country.
Even if the bill becomes law, without funding for more facilities, many of the chimps currently under federal lock-up may never escape their cages, never feeling the compassion of humankind as opposed to the cruelty.
"It's a prison sentence that they don't deserve," said Goodrich.
"We know how intelligent they are. We know that they suffer," said Goodrich. "So day in and day out it's just a terrible life to think about for them."
The Great Ape Protection Act is still in committee on Capitol Hill. Supporters want congress to use the $25 million a year spent housing the chimps in government warehouses to build or expand sanctuaries across the country.