The National Institutes of Health (NIH) can move forward with plans to retire most of its research chimpanzees, thanks to a bill approved by Congress this week that lifts a funding roadblock.
NIH decided earlier this year to phase out most NIH-funded invasive studies on chimpanzees and to retire all but 50 of its 360 research chimpanzees. There was one hitch, however: In 2000, Congress had capped how much money the agency could spend to support chimps at Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana, which runs the federal chimpanzee sanctuary and already cares for some 150 chimps owned or supported by NIH. The agency was expected to hit the $30 million cap this month.
Earlier this week, however, the House of Representatives approved a bill that will lift the cap on spending; the Senate approved the measure yesterday. The chimpanzee measure, folded into a bill aimed at reducing premature births, allows NIH to spend up to $9 million to $12 million a year over the next 5 years on the federal sanctuary if that is cheaper than keeping NIH's chimpanzees at research facilities (which it should be).
The bill now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.