On Aug. 8, a man had a monkey on a leash at a Madison, Wis. beer garden. A woman walking by reached over the fence to pet the monkey and was promptly bitten on the thumb. After several hours on the loose, the monkey was quarantined and then declared a dangerous animal for this bite and two others.
The day before, a man smuggled a marmoset into the United States by keeping the small monkey under his hat. The animal went undetected on the first leg of the trip from Peru to Fort Lauderdale. Passengers on the second flight noticed the animal, and officials were on hand to meet the man when the plane landed at LaGuardia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the marmoset for quarantine and testing.
And Oliver, a capuchin monkey at a Mississippi zoo, escaped twice in the past two weeks. The first time Oliver got out because his enclosure was dummy locked—unlocked but looked like it was locked. His Aug. 13 escape is harder to explain. The park manager reportedly purchased $300 worth of new locks for the cage on the 10th and still found two capuchins outside it Monday morning. Oliver’s companion was recaptured immediately, and thanks to a tip, Oliver was found Tuesday in a backyard about four and a half miles from the zoo.
At least 100 people have been injured by captive primates over the past ten years, many of them children. In 2005, two chimpanzees escaped their enclosure at an exotic animal facility and attacked a man, in a haunting and gruesome mauling.
In response to people fancying wild animals as pets, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) and Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) and Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) have introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act—S. 1498 and H.R. 2964. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved the bill unanimously on July 31, and it now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
The primate bill does not prohibit possession of primates—states are responsible for that, and since 2005, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and Washington all banned primates as pets, joining about a dozen other states that already had such laws. The federal bill addresses the interstate trade and transportation of the animals, who are often sold over the Internet and at auctions around the country.
Wild animals belong in the wild—not in basements or backyards. Keeping primates as pets is inhumane and plain dangerous for all involved. Please contact your federal lawmakers in support of these important bills.