Senate passes CHIMP bill

By: Dr. Whitney Miller, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

In a rare moment of Congressional efficiency, the U.S. Senate on Oct. 30 passed S. 1561, the CHIMP Act Amendments, which will amend the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to provide for additional funding for chimpanzee sanctuaries.

The legislation’s goal is to improve provisions in the PHSA related to the sanctuary system for chimpanzees. Congress first established the sanctuary system for federally owned or supported chimpanzees involved in research in 2002 under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act, which is a part of the PHSA. The original CHIMP Act capped the amount of federal money that could be spent on the sanctuary system at $30 million. With operational costs increasing and more chimpanzees slated for retirement to these sanctuaries in the upcoming years, that cap has become unsustainable. S. 1561 will allow the National Institutes of Health to exceed that $30 million dollar cap.

The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, to review any research the chimpanzees are involved in, report on the costs that are associated with their care and the maintenance of their facilities, and identify any possible areas for cost savings.

Chimpanzee issues have been a hot topic in Congress for a number of years.  In the 112th Congress, a Senate committee passed the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.  Before passage, the Senate amended the bill to address some of the findings in the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) panel report, “The Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research.”  AVMA opposed that legislation.

Following the IOM report, the NIH tasked an independent advisory committee with reviewing the issue of chimpanzees used in biomedical research.  Based on that committee’s recommendations, NIH announced in June that it plans to retire a majority of its chimpanzee population.

S. 1561 will now be sent over to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.  AVMA is reviewing the bill, but does not currently have a position.

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