Primate Rescue Center

Private Ownership

PhotoThe United States has a hodgepodge of laws regarding the private ownership of nonhuman primates: some states outlaw it entirely, while others have no restrictions (although individual counties or municipalities in those states may limit or prohibit private ownership). Some states bar individuals from owning monkeys, but have “grandfathered in” those pets in someone’s possession prior to the enactment of the law. Florida bans the ownership of baboons and Great Apes, but requires different permitting requirements for those who want to own large or small monkeys. Oklahoma requires that those possessing pet monkeys have their facilities inspected annually, while other states require possession permits but never inspect the properties.


  • Because the conditions in which animals are kept are usually not monitored by federal or local officials, they are often subjected to neglect, mistreatment, cruelty, and even death.
  • Some primates can transmit debilitating—even lethal—diseases. Macaques, for example, carry the herpes B virus, which is potentially fatal for a human who’s scratched, bitten, or spit on.
  • Quality veterinary care for primates is often hard to find, so animals may not get necessary attention for medical or dental problems.
  • Because docile baby primates usually become wild and unpredictable as they age, some owners remove their pets’ teeth, subjecting them to great pain and making it impossible for them to ever again eat a normal diet.
  • Monkeys are social by nature, but pet owners often keep their animals caged alone, subjecting them to profound and psychologically damaging loneliness.
  • Pet primates are sold by breeders, dealers, and auctioneers who are in business only for profit, with no regard for the welfare of the animals.
  • When someone inevitably tires of keeping a pet monkey, there are few viable options for relocating that animal: local shelters aren’t equipped to keep primates, and most sanctuaries are filled to capacity. As a result, the animals are ignored in their basement or garage cages, causing them even more physical or psychological stress, or in some cases even let loose to fend for themselves.

Bottom Line
For the good of the animals, all states should unilaterally ban the ownership of apes and monkeys by private citizens.

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