Primate Rescue Center

Legislation Would Ban Pet Monkeys in Virginia

Erika Fleury January 23, 2015

One Hampton Roads, VA lawmaker isn't monkeying around in this year's General Assembly session.

Pet monkeys would be banned in Virginia under legislation proposed by state Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomac. His legislation, SB1315, would end future purchases and breeding of nonhuman primates in homes or at what the Humane Society calls "roadside zoos."

Norman is a former pet monkey who now lives at the PRC.

The bill would not affect an accredited zoo such as the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk and would not be retroactive.

Lewis introduced the bill at the request of the Humane Society, which notes that Virginia law regulates ownership of big cats, bears and dangerous reptiles but not primates.

"Upon discussion with them, it became clear that it was a legitimate public policy point," he said. "Other states have done this."

Matt Gray, Virginia director of the Humane Society of the United States, said the issue has been overlooked in the state.

"Primates are extremely intelligent animals that can't be kept in people's homes," he said.

The bill would prevent the Natural Bridge Zoo and others from future primate purchases or breeding, he said.

Among the problems are that monkeys in private hands don't get proper exercise, diet or stimulation with other animals, Gray said. The primates, which often are purchased online, also can become violent.

"They're wild animals," he said. "That's what happens."

The Humane Society says about 300 people have been injured by captive primates nationally since 1990.

Since 2008, primate attacks in Virginia have occurred in Richmond, Mechanicsville, Wise, Surry County and Chesapeake, where in 2010 a capuchin monkey named Noah attacked his owner twice. The 60-year old man needed treatment at a hospital each time.

Joshua Severts, a co-owner of Pet Paradise on Kellam Road in Virginia Beach, said people sometimes inquire about purchasing a primate, which his store doesn't offer.

"I try to appeal to their senses and convince them that that's just a terrible idea in general," Severts said.

- PilotOnline

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