New Federal Rule May Thwart Your Desire for a Pet Monkey

By Rachel Cernansky | February 25, 2009 2:53 pm

chimp.jpgThe U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to ban interstate trade of primates, following last week’s attack of a woman in Connecticut by a chimpanzee who’d been used in commercials and kept as a household pet. The Captive Primate Safety Act would not outlaw owning chimpanzees and other [primates] [MSNBC], but acquiring them would become more difficult. The legislation, which passed 323 to 95, would prohibit interstate sale or purchase of monkeys and apes, which include chimpanzees and orangutans, as well as marmosets and lemurs [Reuters].

The legislation applies only to the sale of primates as pets, and would have no impact on zoos or researchers. There may be as many as 15,000 primate pets in the United States. Only 20 states prohibit keeping them as pets, and there is no federal law against it [The New York Times]. The Humane Society of the United States has said that over the past four years there were more than 40 incidents involving primates escaping and injuring humans [Reuters].

After the vote, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Primates are wild animals and should not be regularly transported around the United States and integrated into our communities or our households. Today we have taken an important step toward the welfare of humans and animals” [Los Angeles Times].

Similar legislation was passed in the House last year but it then died in the Senate; supporters hope a Senate bill will pass this time around. It is expected to be introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) later this year.

Related Content:
80beats: EU Proposal Would Spare Great Apes From Medical Research
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”

Image: Flickr / belgianchocolate

MORE ABOUT: exotic pets, primates
  • http://TwoSistersArtandSoul Lisette Root

    I believe it is time to evaluate our motives and actions concerning not only primates, but many other species as well. We cannot know the future repercussions of our actions,but considering the outbreaks of many animal related illnesses, it doesn’t look good for humans or animals. The mega farming of cattle, for example, has not only loosed disease among animals, but among people too.

  • Dennis

    Kevin had a monkey.

  • Kate

    My family has owned a monkey for 15 years, and have not had many problems! Sure he can bite a little (it DOESN’T hurt), but he is calm, and is very loving. I plan on owning a monkey in the future. They are lovable and funny animals.

  • Corey

    The chimpanzee that attacked that woman had lhyme disease and that was one of the causes of it’s attack. So maybe just implement that all pet primates must be vaccinated for lhyme disease

  • Common Sense

    There are more human attacked human incidents than “Pet” attacked human. Should we ban human?

  • hopefulever

    I’m from Canada so I’m only going to posit an observation that there are many more people attacked by dogs than by pet monkeys and primates. And, since I am 58, I remember back in the ’60s and ’70s how much more prevalent exotic animal ownership was: ocelots, spider and rhesus monkeys, parrots, etc. I think that the laws that are in place right now have done their job and that this reaction is just knee-jerk. Yes, I have read and heard about this woman and know that she has been transferred to the surigical facility which did the ‘face transplant’ and hope that she gets all the help she needs in order to put this behind her.

  • Innovative1

    Why has their not been more focus on the fact that she was feeding her chimp Xanax??? Xanax makes everybody crazy!!

  • G

    I have to agree with hopefulever dog attacks are much more common than primate attacks. This whole thing is rediculous.

  • Jo

    @Common Sense: only pet humans.

    To be fair, of course dog attacks are more common than primate attacks — dogs as pets are far more common than primates as pets. People need to remember that chimps and other primates are wild animals, and simply raising it among humans does not change that. I’m NOT implying that wild animals are naturally vicious. I’m just saying that they are not domesticated — and what exactly that means seems to be lost on a lot of people.

    The sad fate of chimps in Hollywood is well known. Every adorable chimp you’ve ever seen on film is a young chimp — once they become adults they become too difficult to manage and usually end up as research animals.

    It SHOULD be difficult for an individual to acquire a wild animal. They were not bred to fit neatly around our lives like dogs and cats were. They are very high maintenance pets, and usually have very specific dietary and emotional needs. It’s great that people love wild animals — so do I — but be realistic. Don’t turn them into something they aren’t. Love them for what they are, not for what you want them to be.

  • Eileen

    The basis for passing this law are gross exaggerations, fear mongering, and/or outright lies. Since 1975, the US banned import of Primates for the pet trade. Legally acquired primates must be purchased from a USDA licensed breeder. There is NO CASE of DISEASE transmission from pet primate to human on record in the US. The only case occurred at a LABORATORY, which would be exempt from this legislation. There have been ONLY 150 incidents regarding primates in TEN years, and of those only 80 were related to the pet sector. The remainder occurred at zoos, sanctuaries, and laboratories. So 3-4 bites a year at a cost of $4 million to enforce this law is ridiculous. According to Animal Rights groups there are 15,000 pet primate in the US. This means that LESS THAN 1% of owners had an issue with their primates. Proportionately, roughly 3-5% of dog owners had issues with their dogs. There have been NO deaths due to primates in the pet Sector. All of the 3-4 bites have minor not even requiring medical attention. YET there are 800,0000+ dog sending people to Emergency rooms a YEAR, and DOGS KILL roughly 5-15 people yearly in the US alone.

    Also these groups make it seem that all primate owners own 200 LB chimpanzees. This is far from true. 90% or more of primates kept as pets are under 30 lbs, with the most common species being capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and marmosets all weighing less than 10lbs. Chimpnazees cost over $60,000 so there cost is prohibitive in itself. Many states already ban the ownership of apes as pets.

    This law is not really enforceable (who is going to follow a pet monkey owner across state lines?). The CPSA will increase government spending yet it will not ban ownership, it will not stop bites, and even if it did is a minor monkey bite really worth $500,000 in enforcement? It will only hamper the ability of RESPONSIBLE Primate owners from caring for their pet. It is hard to predict what life changes may occur in 20-45 years. Perhaps an owner needs to relocate to another state for a job, care for elderly family member, etc. Or an owner had purchased a retirement home in another legal state. If the CPSA passes that person would have to re-home their pet or euthanize it. They would not be able to continue caring for their bonded pet.

    The federal government is being brainwashed by special interest Animal Rights groups, furthering their agenda of no animal use. The government is meddling into the private lives of law abiding citizens, making felons out of hard-working citizens. A person traveling with their pet monkey would now be a felon and sit in a prison cell along side murderers, rapists, and the like. Come on people. It is one thing to set fair regulation regarding exotics, but banning them and making felons out of otherwise responsible pet owners because they want to continue caring for their pet is ludicrous. I really hope our legislature wakes up and focuses on more important issues than regulating what pets people can have, and limiting where they can travel with their pet.


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