Congress may lift the federal spending limit for the national sanctuary for federal research chimpanzees sanctuary in northwest Louisiana.
Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has added a proposal to lift the current $30 million cap on spending at Chimp Haven to an unrelated Senate health bill. It returns to the Senate, which earlier passed a similar stand-alone measure.
The measure would let the U.S. health secretary override the cap if doing so would cut the overall expense of housing chimpanzees owned by the National Institutes of Health.
"We're thrilled," said Cathy Willis Spraetz, president and CEO of the sanctuary in Keithville, La. Chimp Haven expects to hit the cap this month, she said Wednesday.
Both the Senate Chimp Act amendment voted on Oct. 30 and the bill passed Tuesday in the House are bipartisan and were approved unopposed, by voice vote.
NIH has been paying 75 percent of the cost to keep chimps retired from federal research at Chimp Haven.
The institute is ending most medical research on chimpanzees. It said in June that it will retire more than 300.
That's in addition to 60 scheduled to come to Chimp Haven, starting in January, from a New Iberia lab which did not renew its federal chimpanzee research contract.
NIH owns nearly all the 163 animals now at Chimp Haven; the sanctuary covers the entire $13,000 a year cost per animal for 14 privately owned animals. A study commissioned by The Humane Society of the United States has estimated annual costs of housing alone for research chimpanzees at $21,900 per animal.
Unlike the Senate Chimp Act amendment, the version approved by the House sets a total cap on spending to support federally owned chimpanzees, starting at $12.4 million — current spending — for fiscal 2014 and dropping each year to $9.4 million in fiscal 2018.
"The anticipation is if they come to Chimp Haven or some other sanctuary the cost will automatically go down," Spraetz said.
Although Chimp Haven is the only sanctuary currently designated for NIH's retired chimpanzees, other sanctuaries could be added to the system.
The Chimp Act amendments passed by the House are a rider to Senate Bill 252, reauthorizing a program for research into the causes of premature birth and education for women likely to give birth prematurely.
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