By James Paladino/J.paladino@latinospost.com (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Jan 23, 2013 11:52 PM EST

(Photo : Reuters)

Hundreds of research chimpanzees that have been poked and prodded their entire lives will be relocated to a Louisiana-based national sanctuary known as Chimp Haven if the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis S. Collins, authorizes a proposal set forth by a panel of top scientists in March.

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 "At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth," said PETA in response to the announcement.

If the proposal passes, over 350 chimps who now reside in laboratories would be sent to the 200-acre Chimp Haven. The 50 that remain in labs will be provided federally-mandated spacious living areas. The recommendation also suggests a halt to breeding chimps for lab testing, and the slashing of grants available for related research.

Chimp Haven Vice President Jennifer Whitaker adds, "Chimp Haven applauds the recommendations of the Working Group (Scientist Panel). We look forward to working closely with the NIH to devise a strategy to retire these chimpanzees to Chimp Haven."

"I'm glad they made clear those animals should be kept to much higher standards than they are currently being kept in," notes Humane Society of the United States Vice President Kathleen Conlee. "We are very pleased with these recommendations. Importantly, they did not recommend future breeding."

Linda Brent, the founder of Chimp Haven tells CBS News, "We want to give chimpanzees opportunities like they would have if they were wild chimps in Africa. To be able to replicate those kinds of environments and behaviors you have to give them space, you have to give them opportunities, and you have to give them the opportunity to have a lot of social partners."

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